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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

Photo of Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo
Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo

President, Libres e Iguales, 2013 European Young Leader

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Cayetana is a former Member of the Spanish Parliament (2008- 2011) and Vice-President of the Joint Committee for the European Union and a Member of the Justice and Constitutional Committees. She was also Deputy Speaker for the Partido Popular of Madrid and Director of the International Department of FAES Foundation. She was awarded the Silver Microphone of the Spanish Professional Association of Informants of Press, Radio and Television for her articles published in El Mundo. She holds a BA and a PhD in History from Oxford University.

Selene Biffi
Selene Biffi

Founder & Executive Director at Plain Ink, 2013 European Young Leader

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Selene is the founder of several social ventures, including Plain Ink – free, educational comics created for children and communities in developing countries – and Youth Action for Change (YAC), high-quality, free, online courses for young change-makers in 130 countries. She has been a consultant, trainer and speaker for many organisations including the UN, Amnesty International, the World Bank, Oxfam, OSCE, the Council of Europe, Columbia University and Microsoft. She is now part of the Italian Economic Development Minister’s Taskforce on Innovative Startups. Selene is a member of RENA, an Italian association of young professionals promoting innovation, merit, youth empowerment and a new generation of local public policies. She holds a NOHA Master’s in International Humanitarian Action from UCD (Ireland) and diplomas from Harvard University and INSEAD Business School.

Camille de Toledo
Camille de Toledo

Director, European Society of Authors, 2013 European Young Leader

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Camille is a European writer, creator and artist. He studied in Paris, at the London School of Economics, as well as in New York. He has published several novels, shorts and essays, such as The Inversion of Hieronymus Bosch (2005), Lives and Death of an American Terrorist (2007), and L’inquiétude d’être au monde (The Anxiety of Being in the World) (2012). In 2004, Camille won the Villa Medicis scholarship for his literary and video work. His short film, “Tango de Olvido”, was selected for the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. In 2008 he founded the European Society of Authors with other intellectual figures to promote a cultural Europe on the basis of what he coined a translation citizenship. He is the Chief Editor of www.ifverso.com and Chief Advisor of the “TLHUB.org” project, a multilingual translation platform.

Balazs Denes
Balazs Denes

Executive Director, European Liberties Platform (ELP), 2013 European Young Leader

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Balázs is a Hungarian lawyer and a human rights activist. In 1997 he joined the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), the country’s leading civil liberties watchdog organisation, and after holding various positions he served as the HCLU Executive Director from 2004 to 2012. Since early 2013, he is Director of the European Civil Liberties Project at the Open Society Foundations. He is a founding member of many Hungarian NGOs, and serves on the board of the Common Sense for Drug Policy Foundation and the Melymosoly Foundation. He focuses on civil liberties, human rights, communication and NGO management issues. Balázs received his law degree in 1998 from ELTE University Budapest and is a 2003-2004 Columbia University/Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) Fellow.

Rokhaya Diallo
Rokhaya Diallo

Co-founder, Les Indivisibles, 2013 European Young Leader

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Rokhaya is a human rights activist, journalist and Founder and former President of Les Indivisibles, a French organisation that uses humour and irony to fight racism. She is the Host and Co-Editor of “Egaux, mais pas trop” (Equal, but not too much), a series of reports on diversity issues in France. She has held several other noteworthy positions in the television field, basing her work primarily on social and political issues. In 2009, she co-directed the documentary Immigration, the words to tell it. Rokhaya has a Master’s in Marketing and Distribution in TV and Cinema Industry from the Sorbonne, a Master’s in Negotiation and Marketing and a Master’s in International and European Law. She is a published author and prolific conference speaker and is a member of several NGOs and organisations that base their work on social awareness. In 2012, she was awarded the “Award for Involvement against racism and discrimination” by COJEP International.

Karel Janecek
Karel Janecek

Chairman of the Supervisory Board, RSJ Algorithmic Trading, 2013 European Young Leader

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Karel is a Czech anti-corruption activist, mathematician and social-reformer, who is using his skills to rethink how democracy functions. Following a series of corruption scandals in 2013 that threatened to bring down the Czech government, Karel engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at improving governmental accountability through citizen action and electoral reform. One of these is Democracy 2.1 (D21), primarily based on the possibility to vote against a candidate. This concept is currently used by the cities of Prague and New York, and was also tested by the UK National Health Service (NHS).

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Denis "Jaromil" Roio

Founder,Dyne.org Foundation, 2013 European Young Leader

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Denis (also known as Jaromil) is a free software programmer who founded Dyne.org, a website dedicated to the development of free software. He is also both a media artist and an activist. He has made significant contributions to the development of multimedia and streaming applications on the Linux platform and has led R&D activities in the Netherlands Media Art Institute for the past 6 years. He was honoured with the Vilém Flusser Theory Award in 2009, for his outstanding digital arts practice, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Planetary Collegium’s Milan node at the University of Plymouth.

Lavinia-Marcela Şandru
Lavinia-Marcela Şandru

President, European Environmental Initiative, 2013 European Young Leader

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Lavinia is President of the European Ecologist Association and television anchor on a Romanian political critique show. Formerly, she was Vice-President of the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR). Prior to this she was President of the National Initiative Party (PIN). Before launching her political career she worked in the film and media sector. Lavinia is an active supporter of ecology and was the Director of the “EcoFest Manifesto for Earth Health” Festival, the first European tour representing the Romanian ecologist movement. In 2007 Lavinia was a key figure in the “Romanian’s Guide in the European Union” promotional campaign. In 2011 Lavinia received the Woman of the Year award in the Politicians category at the Romanian Women of Success Gala. Lavinia attended the Arts and Theatre Academy of Targu Mures and holds a PhD in Political Sciences from the University of Bucharest

Slawomir Sierakowski
Slawomir Sierakowski

Director, Institute of Advanced Study, 2013 European Young Leader

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Slawomir is the founder and leader of ‘Krytyka Polityczna’ (the Political Critique), the widest Polish movement of left-wing intellectuals, artists and activists, with branches in Ukraine, Germany and Russia. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the daily ‘Dziennik Opinii’ (The Opinion Daily) and The Publishing House and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw. He is President of the Stanislaw Brzozowski Association, running six cultural centres and 25 local centres in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Germany. Slawomir has written numerous essays and op-eds, mainly devoted to Polish and European politics and culture.

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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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