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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!)?

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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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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Photo of Jamila Aanzi
Jamila Aanzi

Business economist, UN Women’s Representative, 2014 European Young Leader

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Jamila has positioned herself as one of the leading innovators in the fields of youth involvement and social outreach in the Netherlands. She has participated in numerous programmes aimed at encouraging cooperation between diverse backgrounds and envisioning a new social and political vision. In 2017, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, appointed Jamila as Dutch women’s representative at the United Nations. As a senior international trainer for the Max van der Stoel foundation she trains political parties and politicians in Eastern Europe, the Middle-East and North-Africa. Jamila is an alumni of several international leadership programs like the Israeli ‘future European leaders’ program and the US state department’s ‘international visitors leadership’ program.

Danae Bezantakou
Danae Bezantakou

CEO of Navigator Shipping LTD , 2014 European Young Leader

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Danae is the Managing director of Navigator Shipping Consultants LTD. One of her important achievements is the organisation of the Navigator Conference since 2001 which is considered to be one of the biggest shipping events gathering the decision makers of the shipping community and speakers from all over the world on an annual basis. Through her participation in lectures and seminars, Danae has travelled the world to promote and strengthen women’s entrepreneurship. Her latest venture includes the foundation of Greek Food Obsessions, a gourmet culinary company providing the Greek and international food market with high quality Greek gourmet products from all over Greece. Danae holds a Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of Surrey.

Adriano Farano
Adriano Farano

Co-founder & CEO at Watchup, 2014 European Young Leader

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Adriano is the CEO and Co-founder of Watchup, a Silicon Valley-based start-up that brings the power of video journalism to the post-PC era with an Apple app that lets you build your daily newscast out of the world’s most trusted news channels. He is a former EiR at StartX, the Stanford student start-up accelerator. Previously, he co-founded and ran from 2001 to 2009 Cafebabel.com, a pan-European online media outlet entirely translated in 6 languages that has thousands of contributors. In 2007, he was selected as a young leader in the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Adriano is a Political Science and International Relations graduate from LUISS University in Rome.

Christel Heydemann
Christel Heydemann

Executive Vice-President of Human Resources and Transformation, Alcatel-Lucent, 2014 European Young Leader

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Christel is Executive Vice-President of Human Resources and Transformation at Alcatel-Lucent and Member of the Executive Management Committee. Christel began her career at The Boston Consulting Group in Paris and joined Alcatel in 1999 on the Project Finance team of the Chief Financial Officer and has made her way up the ladder progressively and successfully ever since. She is also President of Fondation Azaria, created in 1940 to support employees facing personal difficulties. Christel was selected in 2012 as Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and as a Rising Talent by the Women’s forum. Christel is a graduate of the French Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées.

Guillaume Liegey
Guillaume Liegey

CEO of eXplain, 2014 European Young Leader

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Guillaume is an expert in electoral strategy. He began his career in Beijing before joining the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. for 4 years in France and in the United States. In 2012, he joined the French presidential campaign team of François Hollande, in which he oversaw the field campaign strategy to reach out to 5 million households, led the rollout of the campaign in 30 departments and coordinated the communication strategy. He then co-founded a political strategy firm Liegey Muller Pons to help other European political parties improve the way they run their election campaigns and engage with citizens before and after the polls. Guillaume is the co-author of Porte-à-porte, Reconquérir la démocratie sur le terrain (2013). He is also a lecturer at Sciences Po Paris, where he teaches a course on electoral campaigns. Guillaume is a graduate of HEC and Harvard, holding a Master in Public Administration and a MSc in Management.

Daniela Ott
Daniela Ott

CEO, Eden Being, 2014 European Young Leader

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Daniela is the recently appointed CEO of the Tomas Maier Brand, one brand within the Kering Luxury Brand, to which she has been COO since 2012, in charge of supporting the expansion of the company’s 17 brands. Daniela has built a dual competency in brand management, strategy and finance on the one hand, and in merchandising and product knowledge on the other. Previously, she has worked as Director of Strategy of the Gucci Group in London and Paris and as Director of Strategy and Marketing at Balenciaga. Daniela holds a PhD in Marketing from Dauphine University, Paris and an MSc in Management from LSE. She teaches a class on Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC, Paris. In 2012, she was selected as one of the Deauville’s Women’s Forum “Rising Talents” and has previously received the LSE Research Award and the Economic & Social Research Council Award.

Nina Rawal
Nina Rawal

Founder of Emerging Health Ventures and European Young Leader

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With the founding of her own venture capital firm, Nina works towards addressing the large unmet medical needs of low and middle income countries. Before starting her own business, Nina was Head of Life Science at the Swedish Industrial Development Fund (Industrifonden) where she was responsible for international business development in early life science companies. She was also Vice President of Ventures and Strategy at Gambro, a leading global medical technology company. Nina has worked in the academic, non-profit, and government sectors in the USA, France and the UK. Her academic background is in molecular neurobiology and biochemistry, and includes a PhD from the Karolinska Institute. In 2012, she was selected as one of 20 “Rising Talents” worldwide by the Women’s Forum.

Maria Vlachou
The late Maria Vlachou

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Fereikos, 2014 European Young Leader

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Maria was the CEO of Fereikos-Helix, a company that oversees the development of organic snail farming globally and CEO of Maria Vlachou LTD, specialising in the branding, packaging and export of Greek high-quality agricultural products. In 2011, Maria she was awarded the Greek Entrepreneur of the Year prize and in 2013, she was included in the Fortune list of “40 under 40” in Greece. In addition, she was on the advisory board of Hellenic Start-Up Association and mentor at several start-up initiatives such as Startup live Athens.

Maria left us too soon on 24 July 2019.

Max von Bismarck
Max von Bismarck

Chief Business Officer & Managing Director, Deposit Solutions, 2014 European Young Leader

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Max is a European serial entrepreneur and Chief Business Officer of Deposit Solutions. Previously Max was Partner and CEO Europe for SkyBridge Capital, the global alternative investment firm, and Director and Head of Investors at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and New York. Furthermore, he was a Co-Founder & Managing Director at Public One Strategy Consulting, and part of the initial team of the technology company Mondus Limited that originated out of Oxford University. He serves as Senior Advisor Europe to the Berggruen Institute and is a former Senior Advisor on Global Business at the Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University.

Julia Zimmermann
Julia Zimmermann

Chief Scientific Officer, Terraplasma, 2014 European Young Leader

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Julia is principal investigator in the research area “plasma medicine”, a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field of research requiring synergistic contributions from physicists, engineers, chemists, micro- and cell-biologists and physicians. To carry out this fundamental but also translational research she created a “plasma medicine network” including partners from more than 20 institutions in Germany, England, the USA and Russia. Julia is also Co-founder of the company terraplasma GmbH – a technology company, founded in May 2011 as a spin-off from the Max Planck Society. The mission of terraplasma GmbH is to develop and bring to market different cold atmospheric plasma devices. Julia holds a PhD in Biophysics from the Technical University in Munich.

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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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