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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.

The 2020 Class of European Young Leaders:


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

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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

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

Una Mullally

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Meet the EYL40

Janis Jonevs
Janis Jonevs

Author and literary critic, 2018 European Young Leader

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Janis is a Latvian author and literary critic. He is best known for his debut novel Jelgava’94, which explores the transition from the Soviet Union to a ‘new Europe’. His novel was a bestseller upon its release in 2013, and went on to win the European Union Prize for Literature, drawing attention to Latvian and Baltic literature. Evoking the youth of his country in the post-communist 1990s, the novel describes places of counter-culture, the sound of heavy metal, of saturated guitars and scary voices. Through his work he explores the role of subcultures, such as the heavy metal scene, in shaping Latvian national identity, how they interact with the dominant culture, and shape interactions between the new and older generations.

Photo of Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

Parliamentary State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former Chairwoman of the European Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament and European Young Leader Alumna

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Zanda started her professional career at Jurmala’s city council in 1998. She then worked at the Ministry of Regional Development before joining the Strategic Analysis Commission, where she advised Latvian President Valdis Zatlers on strategic planning. She was elected to the Latvian Parliament in 2011. During her mandate, she chaired the Committee on European Affairs and the Reform Party parliamentary group. In 2014, Zanda was appointed Parliamentary State Secretary in the Latvian government. Her role is to ensure cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Latvian Parliament and the European Parliament.

Viktoria Modesta
Viktoria Modesta

Bionic pop artist & futurist, 2019 European Young Leader

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Viktoria is a British Latvian-born bionic pop artist, creative director and futurist. Describing her work as post-human and post-disability, she bridges performance art, music and fashion with technology, science and medicine. She first gave us a fresh and glamorous perspective of disability in a cultural content when she performed as the Snow Queen during the closing ceremony of Paralympics 2012 wearing a diamond encrusted prosthetic. Viktoria’s futuristic approach on “the body as art concept” got her selected as a Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab which led her to collaborate on a more academic level with artists working with technology and science, architects and multiple cultural institutions worldwide.

Baiba Skride
Baiba Skride

Classical Violinist and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Baiba is an award-winning Latvian classical violinist who has performed around the world with prestigious orchestras and renowned conductors. Baiba has previously performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 2019, she made an appearance at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s Classical Spree festival and the Grafenegg Festival with Vienna’s Tonkünstler Orchestra. An internationally sought-after chamber musician, Baiba also sings as part of a long-established duo with her sister Lauma. She is anticipating the release of her Bartók recording with the WDR Sinfonieorchester and Eivind Aadland.

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Selection process

Due to Covid-19, no European Young Leaders class will be selected for 2021. Application for the class of 2022 will open in the spring of 2021.

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 to EU integration (Serbia, Kosovo*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North 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.

*references to Kosovo in this document are used without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244/99 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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