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Bold leadership, ground-breaking ideas, unparalleled passion …

For almost a decade the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme has brought together the brightest minds and outside the box leaders to put their innovative thinking to work at building a more forward-thinking Europe that is a global champion for a better world. The European Young Leaders represent a new generation of leaders, able to tackle the increasing disconnects between citizens and political elites, to rebuild the trust that is vital to democracies.

These promising and established leaders come from a variety of backgrounds including politics, business, civil society, arts, science and the media.


Tune in to the EYLs on Friends of Europe’s Leading Views podcast

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Leading view

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Joss Garman

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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Leading view

Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Negar Mortazavi

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Leading view

Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Una Mullally

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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Steffen Bilger
Steffen Bilger

Parliamentary State Secretary Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Germany, 2013 European Young Leader

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Steffen has been a Member of the Bundestag since 2009 and Chairman of the North Württemberg district branch of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party since 2011. Steffen joined the CDU and the Young Union (youth section of the CDU/CSU) in 1996 and was elected Chairman of the Baden-Württemberg Land branch of the Pupils’ Union. At the Parliament he is a Member of the Committee on Transport, Building and Urban Development, the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development and runs a study commission on growth, well-being and quality of life. He has also worked for the energy service company MVV Energiedienstleistungen GmbH in 2006. He holds a degree in law from Tübingen University.

Katharina Borchert
Katharina Borchert

Chief Open Innovation Officer Mozilla. Ex-CEO Spiegel Online, 2012 European Young Leader

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Katharina is CEO of Spiegel Online, the leading German news web site, where she is responsible for the commercial aspects and the long-term strategic development of the company. Previously she was Editor-in-Chief and Online Director of the WAZ Media Group, and was an independent writer focusing on technology and the socio-political implications of the digital age. She became one of the best known German-speaking bloggers, winning several awards, including ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ in 2006. She has also participated in humanitarian work in Africa and Bosnia.

Photo of Franziska Katharina Brantner
Franziska Katharina Brantner

Member of the German Bundestag and Member of the European Parliament (2009-2013), 2012 European Young Leader

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Franziska Katharina Brantner is a German politician. Since 2013, she has been Member of the German Parliament for the Green Party where she has served as Chairwoman of the parliamentary Sub-Committee for Civilian Crisis Prevention and as member of the Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Previously, she was a Member of the European Parliament where she worked, amongst others, on foreign affairs, security and defence issues. As such, she was member of the Peace and Security Commission of the Green national party and one of the authors of the party’s manifesto for the European election in 2009.

Steffen Burkhardt
Steffen Burkhardt

Director of the International Media Centre Hamburg, 2013 European Young Leader

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Steffen is Director of the International Media Centre Hamburg. He researches and teaches with a focus on media sociology, social media, privacy and public sphere. His current research includes the transformation of privacy as a consequence of the internationalisation and digitalisation of media. He is a Founding Member of the Global Communication Association and is associated with numerous international organisations and think-tanks. He is a member of the selection committee of the German National Academic Foundation and several trusts to promote press freedom, human rights and democracy.

Henrik Enderlein
Henrik Enderlein

Director of the Jacques Delors Institute, 2014 European Young Leader

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Henrik is Professor of Political Economy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. His research is on economic policy-making, European monetary integration, fiscal federalism, financial markets and financial crises. In 2003, Henrik was awarded the Max Planck Society’s Otto-Hahn Medal for outstanding achievements by young scientists and from 2006 to 2007, he was Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Duke University’s Political Science Department. He holds degrees from Sciences Po, Paris, the University of Bremen and Columbia University. He prepared his PhD in Political Science at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Henrik has just returned from a year as Pierre Keller Visiting Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and the Weatherhead Center of International Affairs.

Markus Freiburg
Markus Freiburg

Founder & Managing Director of Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), 2017 European Young Leader

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Markus is the founder of the Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE), a leading financial intermediary that helps social enterprises scale their social impact by helping them raise hybrid growth capital. FASE has built an open pipeline of investment-ready social enterprises and closed sixteen transactions leveraging around €6m in impact investments. Markus is also a member of the Expert Group on Social Entrepreneurship (GECES), a consultative multi-stakeholder group on social business that examines the progress of measures foreseen by the European Commission. He has experience of working with many social enterprises in finding appropriate financing solutions and scaling-up the impact of proven business models. Markus worked for seven years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where one of his roles was providing pro-bono consulting for social entrepreneurs.

Eberhart Wusterhaus Gomez
Eberhart Wusterhaus Gomez

International Business Director, Clean Carbon Solutions, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

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Eberhart is an engineer specialising in energy generation for heating, power and vehicle fuel from both conventional and sustainable sources. He also has expert knowledge of the feasibility of the development and practical application of energy generation based on local conditions. Born in Mexico and educated in Germany, Eberhart has a vital understanding of industrialised and developing countries alike. He has been responsible for national renewable gas projects in Germany, and for the mechanical design and commissioning of gas processing plants in developing countries. He has a strong understanding of the global energy market, current obstacles and future perspectives, with experience of various multi-million euro investment contract negotiations around the world.

Photo of Jakob Haesler
Jakob Haesler

Co-Founder Project Alloy, 2013 European Young Leader

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Prior to founding Project Alloy, Jakob was the CEO and Co-Founder of Tinyclues SAS, a Paris-based software startup with the objective of industrialising datamining on Big Data with the help of advanced machine learning algorithms in a Cloud Computing environment. Previously he was a partner and consultant at McKinsey & Company in Germany and France where he worked on topics ranging from Banking to Public Sector Reform to Global Public Health issues, notably the creation and distribution of child HIV treatments. Prior to McKinsey he briefly worked at the World Bank. He holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science from the University of St. Gallen. Jakob is also a founding partner of the “Cercle du Leadership”.

Fabian Heilemann
Fabian Heilemann

Founder & CEO of Sky & Sand, 2013 European Young Leader

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Fabian founded the leading German couponing company DailyDeal in 2009. To date he still leads DailyDeal together with his co-founder and brother. In private, he invests as a business angel in technology start-ups through his holding Heilemann Ventures. Before founding DailyDeal, Fabian worked for various German law firms and as a business consultant for Booz & Co. Prior to that, he passed the First Bar Exam of the State of Hamburg with distinctions and submitted a PhD thesis in Corporate Law at Heidelberg Law School. He was a visiting student at Santa Clara University and Stanford University, CA, USA and founded the Entrepreneurs Club at Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany.

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Lars Hinrichs

Founder & CEO of HackFwd, 2013 European Young Leader

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Lars is Founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed venture capital company investing in technical talent across Europe. He is best known for founding the worldwide social networking website XING, dedicated to cultivating business contacts. He is one of the most successful web entrepreneurs in Germany and has received several awards, including Germany’s leading award for print and online media, the Lead Award, the 2004 German Internet Prize of the Federal Ministry of Economics and was elected Germany’s most important web entrepreneur in 2008 by the Startups Initiative. Lars is also an honorary member of the German Committee of UNICEF.

Gyde Jensen
Gyde Jensen

Youngest MP in Germany, 2019 European Young Leader

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Gyde is the youngest female Member of the German Parliament. She is also Chairwoman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Prior to these posts, she spent time working in Geneva and Washington D.C, in addition to serving as communications manager at a political foundation. She is the co-founder of the start-up network platform, ‘Kiel Starting City’. In October 2017, she was elected a Member to the German Bundestag and is the speaker on human rights for the FDP parliamentary group. Since January 2018, she has chaired the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.

Andreas Kunze
Andreas Kunze

Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Konux, 2019 European Young Leader

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Andreas is the CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX, a company that combines smart sensors and analytics based on artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of guaranteeing the punctual operation and maintenance of railway networks. While working for corporations like Siemens and BMW, Andreas came to the realisation that many industrial companies were not yet aware of the advantages accompanying the Internet of Things, nor did they know how to properly make use of their data. He managed to raise +$50 million with leading Silicon Valley investors and just a year later, KONUX won the national mobility award ‘Deutscher Mobilitätspreis’ along with the German digital award ‘The Spark’ in 2016. That same year, Andreas was the youngest CEO to be included in the entrepreneur list by the German Capital Magazine.

Helena Linder-Jess
Helena Linder-Jess

Assistant Naval Attachée for the Embassy of Germany to the United States of America, 2018 European Young Leader

Show more information on Helena Linder-Jess

As the first woman as Commanding Officer in the German Navy (FGS Datteln), Helena has participated in several international missions under the United Nations and NATO with her crew. In this role, she has been responsible for all issues concerning her ship, crew and assignments, including extensive training and combat cycles. Helena is the first woman ever to take over the command of a German navy ship.

Gottfried Ludewig
Gottfried Ludewig

German politician for the Christian Democratic Union, 2018 European Young Leader

Show more information on Gottfried Ludewig

Elected in 2011, Gottfried currently serves as the Deputy Chairman and the spokesperson for health issues of the Christian Democrats Union parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives. In this position, Gottfried is particularly committed to strengthening research and innovation in the healthcare sector as well as advocating for the creation of a Berlin nursing home as an institutionalised representation of the care sector in the Berlin House of Representatives.

Radoslaw Martin Cichy
Radoslaw Martin Cichy

Research Group Leader, Free University of Berlin, 2018 European Young Leader

Show more information on Radoslaw Martin Cichy

Radoslaw is a neuroscientist, leading the research group “Neural Dynamics of Visual Cognition” at the Free University Berlin. His main interest is human visual cognition – that is, the way the brain represents visual objects. Radoslaw has received numerous awards and grants from private and public funders for his ground-breaking research including from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, most recently, from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In addition to teaching and lecturing at various universities worldwide, he is also a regular on the conference trail in the US and Europe.

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Continue to Selection process

Selection process

The EYL40 programme is a unique, multi-stakeholder programme which aims to promote a sense of European identity by bringing together forty of the brightest European leaders every year and engaging them in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future. We aim to select 40 European Young Leaders of diverse backgrounds in order to enable a broad exchange of ideas, creating the basis for a new generation of engaged European leaders. Additionally, in 2020, the programme will include 6 Young Leaders from the Western Balkan region. In doing so, we aim to promote structural dialogue across the continent that will foster better mutual understanding.

Since the launch of the programme in 2012, we have gradually taken steps to ensure the diversity and exceptional quality of its selection process. We have made sure that its comprehensive and competitive nature ensures the identification and selection of remarkable individuals. Candidates can either apply or be nominated for the selection process of the programme.

Selection criteria:

  •  Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age;
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path towards EU integration (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro);
  • Candidates should have established themselves the highest levels of their chosen profession, or be on track to do so;
  • Candidates must be committed to serve society at large through noteworthy contributions and have demonstrated a record of significant achievements and outstanding professional experience;
  • Candidates are also evaluated based on their ability to contribute to the enrichment of the programme as a whole;
  • Candidates are required to be fluent in English as it is the working language of the programme;
  • Candidates must commit to participating in at least one seminar during the programme year.

The deadline for nominations and applications for the 2020 European Young Leaders class has passed. We are currently reviewing the candidates and aim to announce the 2020 class before the end of 2019. We will open the application and nomination period for the class of 2021 in the spring of 2020.

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