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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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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Photo of Wajahat Ali
Wajahat Ali

Journalist, Author and Playwright, 2017 North American Young Leader

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Wajahat is an award-winning playwright and TV host of Pakistani descent. At Affinis Labs, he works to create social entrepreneurship initiatives that have a positive impact for marginalised communities and to empower social entrepreneurs and communities to come up with innovative solutions to tackle the world problems. Wajahat is the author of The domestic Crusaders, which was the first major play about Muslim Americans published after 9/11. He is also the lead author of the investigative report about anti-Muslim discrimination Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America from the Center for American Progress. He also previously worked as the co-host of the Al Jazeera American Network.

Tammam Azzam
Tammam Azzam

Artist, 2017 MENA Young Leader

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Born in Damascus, Tammam started his career in Syria as a painter and a graphic designer and has since participated with his works in solo and group exhibitions around the world. Following the start of the uprising in Syria, he turned to digital media and graphic art to create visual composites of the conflict that resonated with international viewers. These widely distributed works are informed by his interest in the interventionist potential of digital photography and street art as powerful and direct forms of protest that are difficult to suppress. In early 2013, Tammam made worldwide headlines when his Freedom Graffiti print went viral on social media.

Julien Berjeaut
Julien Berjeaut

Graphic artist & comic book author, 2014 European Young Leader

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Julien, known by his pseudonym Jul, is a French cartoonist and comic book author. He won third prize in the youth competition at the Angoulême comic book festival at the age of 12. He began his working life as a Professor of Chinese history, but then devoted himself entirely to comics. He has published cartoons in numerous newspapers and magazines including Les Échos, La Dépêche du Midi, Nouvel Observateur, and L’Humanité. His comic book series Silex and the City was adapted into a TV animation series and aired as of September 2012 on the franco-german channel Arte. He was appointed by the French government to the rank of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in September 2012.

Francesca Cavallo
Francesca Cavallo

Author & Entrepreneur, Founder of Timbuktu Labs, 2019 European Young Leader

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Francesca is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and founder of Timbuktu Labs. She is the co-creator of “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women that has become a publishing sensation. As the most successful new title in the history of crowdfunding, it has sold more than 3.5mn copies and has been translated into dozens of languages. Francesca’s career began in theatre, where she worked as both a manager for a theatre company and as a playwright. In 2012, she moved to California to co-found a children’s media start-up called Timbuktu Labs, Inc. Since then, she has authored nine picture books that have been translated in more than 47 languages.

Jasmina Cibic
Jasmina Cibic

Artist, 2014 European Young Leader

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Jasmina works across a range of media including photography, performance, installation and video. Most often characterised as a visual artist, her artwork is focused on the positioning and analysing of space vis-à-vis other societal categories. She is the author of numerous exhibitions which have been shown all over Europe, as well as the recipient of prestigious Slovenian, European and international awards, including the Bevilacqua la Masa (Venice 2002 and 2005), the Slovenian Trend Award for Outstanding Achievements in Visual Art (2011), and the Catlin Commission Award (London, 2011). She represented Slovenia at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

Alexandra Dariescu
Alexandra Dariescu

Award-winning concert pianist, producer of “The Nutcracker and I” and creative entrepreneur, 2018 European Young Leader

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Named a ‘Rising Star’ by the BBC Music Magazine, Alexandra made her debut at the Carnegie Hall in New York. An award-winning Romanian pianist, she has performed in many prestigious orchestras, such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recipient of several awards and honours, she has been listed as one of the ’30 Pianists under 30 Destined for a Spectacular Career’ by the International Piano Magazine. In addition to her musical achievements, Alexandra received the UK’s Women of the Future Award in the Arts and Culture category, making her an ambassador and symbol of success in the classical music industry. In late 2017, the world premiere of her own production, “The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu”, took place in London – a ground-breaking multimedia performance created for a piano solo with dance and digital animation.

Tishani Doshi
Tishani Doshi

Poet, Writer & Dancer, 2014 European Young Leader

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Tishani is an Indian-Welsh dancer, poet and freelance writer. Currently based in Madras, India, Tishani divides her time between dancing for one of India’s leading choreographers, Chandralekha, and writing pieces for publications such as The Guardian, Corriere della Sera, The New York Times, The Hindu, The National, India Today, Outlook, Tricycle, Vogue and Elle. Her written work has garnered her various awards such as the prestigious Forward Prize (UK) for Best First Collection (2006) for her debut collection of poems, and she was selected to represent India at the 2012 Poetry Parnassus Cultural Olympics in London. Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was published to critical acclaim in 2010, and has been translated into multiple languages. Her latest book is a collection of poems, Everything Begins Elsewhere, and has been published in India, the UK and the USA.

Adil El Arbi
Adil El Arbi

Film Director and Screenwriter, 2017 European Young Leader

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Adil co-directed three movies, one TV series and two award-winning short movies. His two first feature movies, ‘Image’ (2010) and ‘Black’ (2015), co-directed with his friend Bilall Fallah, are set in run-down districts of Brussels. ‘Black’, which features non-professional young actors, premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The plot brings a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ love story to street gangs in modern-day Brussels. Adil became a celebrity by winning ‘The Smartest Person in the World’ quiz on Flemish television. In 2016, the renowned American producer Jerry Bruckheimer entrusted him and Bilall Fallah with the direction of ‘Beverly Hills Cop 4’, the latest in a series of movies starring Eddie Murphy.

Julia Hanzl
Julia Hanzl

Artist/Sculptor, 2019 European Young Leader

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Julia is a sculptor producing a variety of independent work as well as numerous commissioned pieces. These include urn designs for Bestattung Wien (Vienna funeral service) and a life-size graveyard angel made of bronze for a Viennese crypt. Julia regularly collaborates with artists and gallery owners, creating exhibits showing video and photographic visualisations of her sculptures as well as a glass version of her sculpture “Who killed Smiley?”. She also works with a German jewellery-maker, turning her ideas into pieces of jewellery. In 2014, she was named one of the most important figurative artists worldwide, a recognition which led two of her sculptures to be included in the art book “500 Figures in Clay” (Lark Crafts/New York).

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.

Kamal Kharmach
Kamal Kharmach

Belgian stand-up comedian and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Kamal is one of the rising stars of the Belgian stand-up comedy scene, winner of several awards. He openly tackles sensitive and personal issues, such as obesity, discrimination and social injustice. Kamal was previously the Director of the Flemish-Moroccan culture house Daarkom. This cultural organisation seeks to bring about cultural exchange between diverse groups. Kamal is also a well-known TV host. An immigrant and stand-up comedian, he uses his platform to bring light to social abuses through a positive and humorous approach. His mix of television shows range from providing economic guidance for struggling companies, to blending comedy with politics.

Meeri Koutaniemi
Meeri Koutaniemi

Photographer, Documentary Film-maker, Cinematographer and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Meeri is an internationally renowned Finnish photographer and journalist, admired for her coverage of and portraits on human rights, minorities and empowerment. She garnered significant attention for her work on female genital mutilation in Kenya. This won her the Visa D’or Daily Press Award at France’s most prestigious photojournalism festival, Visa pour l’Image, and the Freelens Award at the Lumix Photo Festival in Hannover. She is also a seasoned documentary filmmaker, focusing her attention on disadvantaged groups such as the ‘Findian’ community in the US or transsexual Mayans in Mexico.

Beatrice Leanza
Beatrice Leanza

Cultural strategist and Co-Founder of B/Side Design, 2018 European Young Leader

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Based in Beijing since 2002, Beatrice is a cultural strategist and writer with a background in Asian studies and fifteen-year experience in developing programmes of urban and social impact. She served as creative director of Beijing Design Week (2012 – 2016), China’s largest and internationally best reputed design and architecture event, and was creative director of the urban regeneration plan for Baitasi historic district in Beijing (2015-2016), shaping stakeholders’ relations across the governmental, private and public sectors. In 2017 she co-founded B/Side Design an inclusive organisation currently establishing The Global School, the first independent institute for design and multidisciplinary research in the PRC. She is an advisory board member of Design Trust (Hong Kong) and an advocate of practical creativity for educational empowerment in sustainable futures.

Nadia 'Imany' Mladjao
Nadia 'Imany' Mladjao

Pop-soul singer & Model, 2018 European Young Leader

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Nadia, better known by her stage name Imany, is a French pop-soul singer. After a successful modelling career in New York, she reinvented and established herself as a singer in Paris. Her debut album, ‘The Shape of a Broken Heart’, released in 2011, became soon platinum. Since her debut, Imany went on to write the soundtrack for the film ‘French Women’, released an acclaimed second album, ‘The Wrong Kind of War’, and toured extensively around the world. She has mapped out her route ploughing a furrow between soul, folk, blues and pop, whilst imposing her own style.

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Sofi Oksanen

Author, Novelist and Theatrical Writer, 2012 European Young Leader

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Sofi is a Finnish-Estonian contemporary novelist and theatrical writer who was catapulted into the elite of Finnish literary authors with her first novel, Stalin’s Cows (2003). It created a heated public debate and led to her being nominated for the Runeberg Award, one of Finland’s most prestigious literary prizes. Her first original play, Purge (2008), became a novel ranking number 1 on Finland’s bestseller list. She received numerous awards for Purge, such as the Prix Femina Etranger en France, the European Book Prize and the Nordic Council Literature Prize. She appears regularly in the media and is also known for her opinions in favour of women’s rights and the promotion of equality. For these efforts she has received an award from the University of Helsinki—the University from which she also holds a degree in Literature.

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Continue to Selection process

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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