About

This year’s EYL40 Class of 2023 includes award-winning investigative journalists, a mega-star of modern-day football, politicians from all levels of government and speakers of national parliaments, a male supermodel and philanthropist, renowned scholars, innovators leading the green digital transition, as well as creative tech-based healthcare professionals. Follow along as we reveal the new class on LinkedIn and Twitter from 31 January to 10 February!


Ten years ago, motivated by the urgent need to tackle the increasing disconnect between citizens and policymakers, and to rebuild the trust that is vital to democracies, Friends of Europe crafted a leadership programme unlike any other: the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme. To celebrate the programme’s anniversary, we travelled through the past ten years to share ten inspiring stories.

Our anniversary celebration features volleyball player Valentina Diouf; Rokhaya Diallo, a journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist; Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange; renowned chef Eneko Atxa; serial entrepreneur Ivan Stefunko; bionic pop artist and futurist, Viktoria Modesta; Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas; Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke, CEO and Founder of Women’s WorldWide Web (W4); Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Bastian Obermayer; and Qëndron Kastrati, former mayor of Kamenica, Kosovo. Click here to learn more about our selection amongst 350+ wonderful profiles.


Bold leadership, ground-breaking ideas, unparalleled passion …

We’ve learned time and again that the challenges of the 21st century and of our ever complex world cannot be addressed using the rulebooks of the past. The world is screaming for a new type of leadership and a Renewed Social Contract in which the private sector, local and multilateral institutions, and citizens can collaborate and drive change.

Today’s leaders may look back in time for inspiration, but they must lead with innovation.

The European Young Leaders represent an alternative infrastructure of leadership – a new generation of leaders able to inspire action and generate change. Together, their passion, diversity of backgrounds and opinions, and innovative thinking create the right formula for generating fresh ideas to build a more forward-thinking Europe.

Our European leaders are scientists, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs and astronomers. They are citizens and their thinking is not bound by local and multilateral institutions, traditional political frameworks or bureaucracy. They provide alternative perspectives to EU decision-makers and challenge the status quo.

They help take Europe out of Brussels. In their own countries, cities and communities, the European Young Leaders also play an essential role in reconnecting people with and rebuilding trust in politics by engaging a wider community around key EU policy issues that need a whole-of-economy, whole-of-society approach to progress more quickly. They are facilitating citizens’ participation in the creation of a more equal, innovative and inclusive Europe and helping build a European identity.

The programme in the next years will take a new localism lens, bringing together these thinkers and leaders to act on some of the key issues affecting Europe’s future: supporting the green and digital transformation, strengthening our democracy, improving relations with our neighbours, increasing power sharing and building a more diverse Europe.

Succeeding in these policies and getting more citizens engaged in European elections will be our litmus test.


Tune in to the EYL40s on Friends of Europe’s podcasts

Frankly Speaking Podcast | Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Fighting for the truth in the Western Balkans

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Fighting for the truth in the Western Balkans

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Everything you didn't know about air pollution. It's scary stuff!

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Everything you didn't know about air pollution. It's scary stuff!

Jane Burston

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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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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

Martin Buxant
Martin Buxant

Editor-in-Chief at LN24 and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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With two master’s degrees in Communication and European Integration (Economics), Martin first entered the world of journalism in 2002 initially as a European correspondent and later a political journalist. He has been a reporter for La Libre Belgique and De Morgen, as well as an editor for the television programme “Politiquement Correct” on RTL-TVI during the most recent legislative and regional elections in Belgium. He is currently a Senior Writer at the daily business newspaper L’Echo where he serves as both a political journalist and an editor. Martin appears daily on the Bel-RTL television channel where he conducts a political interview every morning. He is an accomplished author having most recently published a biography of the current Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders.

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Xavier Damman

Founder & CEO of OpenCollective and Co-Founder of Storify and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Xavier is an engineer in computer science who is passionate about the digital renaissance. In 1999, while still at secondary school, he founded Tribal, a site that gathered student content from around Belgium for publication in a magazine that was distributed to 30,000 students nationwide. Ten years later, he co-founded Storify, a social media curation platform that enables users to create stories or timelines using content from social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Storify is now used by top brands, organisations and publishers around the world, including CNN, the New York Times, the United Nations and the White House. More recently, he co-founded OpenCollective, a company that enables groups to collect and spend money transparently without having to create a new bank account.

Sébastien de Halleux
Sébastien de Halleux

Founding General Partner at Graph Ventures and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Sebastien de Halleux is a Founder and General Partner at Graph Ventures, an early stage angel fund with a portfolio of over 180 start-ups, including Blue Apron, Ipsy, Envoy and Figure. Prior to this, Sebastien served as the COO of Saildrone, a company which revolutionaised data collection at sea through the use of wind and solar powered ocean drones. He is also the co-founder and former COO of Playfish, which was one of the largest and fastest growing social gaming companies with over 300mn players before it was acquired by video game giant Electronic Arts in 2009. Sebastien also helped launched Glu Mobile, an early pioneer in mobile games. He is the recipient of the 2012 EA Emerging Leaders Award, the 2011 Tech 100 Award, the 2010 TechFellow Award and the 2003 Booz Allen Professional Excellence Award, and has served on the boards of Saildrone, Samasource, Vittana, UWC-USA, the Solar Fuel Institute and Trusted Family.

Eva De Roo
Eva De Roo

Radio host at the VRT and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Eva is a radio host for the Belgian national radio station Studio Brussel. Music had always been a constant in her life but it was only after getting a degree as an interpreter English-French that she decided to follow that passion. She had her first experience as a radio personality under the cover of darkness during “The Wild Bunch”, the late-night incubator for Studio Brussel’s young talent. Today, only 5 years after this first appearance, she has an eponymous prime-time radio show and has co-hosted “The Warmest Week” – Belgium’s biggest annual charity fundraiser, raising 17million last year – four times in a row. Combined with her career as a voice-actor, DJ and MC at music festivals, this has turned her into one of Belgium’s booming all-round media talents.

Leendert de Voogd
Leendert de Voogd

Global Service Line Leader Social Intelligence Analytics at Ipsos, 2013 European Young Leader

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Leendert is Global Head of the Political and Social Practice of TNS, one of the world’s largest market research companies. From 2002 to 2007 he was Joint Managing Director of TNS Opinion, a co-ordination centre for multi-country studies based in Brussels. Leendert is a member of ESOMAR, a worldwide market, social and opinion research association. Over the last 15 years he has been in charge of the coordination of survey research in countries around the world for an important number of international institutions such as the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the World Bank. He studied Political Science at Belgium’s Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and also at Institut d’Etudes politiques / Sciences Po Paris.

Photo of Thomas Dermine
Thomas Dermine

Belgian State Secretary for Scientific Policy, Recovery Programme and Strategic Investments and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Thomas was appointed Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investment, with responsibility for scientific policy, in the Belgian government in 2020. Prior to his current role, he was well-known for heading l’Institut Emile Vandervelde, a research centre for the francophone Socialist Party (PS). Thomas has extensive experience in the Belgian political environment, having also served as the right hand and chief of staff to Paul Magnette, Chairman of the PS. In addition to his political work, Thomas previously held a managing role at CATCH, a public start-up aimed at coordinating and accelerating local projects in and around Charleroi, an economically modest area in Belgium. Thomas is also an affiliate of the Harvard Government Performance Lab where he leads research on Social Impact and a lecturer at Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Adil El Arbi
Adil El Arbi

Film Director and Screenwriter and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Alicja Gescinska
Alicja Gescinska

Philosopher, writer and TV host and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Alicja is a Belgian-Polish philosopher who has oriented her career around questions of identity and freedom. A published academic and an accomplished author, her first and most well-known title, The Conquest of Freedom, was shortlisted for an array of literary prizes when it was published in 2011. In addition to having held the position of Research Associate at Princeton University, Alicja has lectured at Amherst College on topics such as philosophy of freedom, Islam in Europe and European politics. Returning to Belgium in 2016, she now leads the philosophical TV programme, Wanderlust, on the Canvas channel and contributes regularly to both Philosophy Magazine and the broadcasting company, VRT. Her debut fictional novel, A Kind of Love, won the ‘Debuutprijs’ in 2017.

Jan Goossens
Jan Goossens

Artistic Director of the Festival de Marseille and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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In addition to his current role at the Festival de Marseille, Jan is the Co-Artistic Director of L’Art Rue and its Dream City festival in Tunis, which promote access to culture and the democratisation of the arts. He also leads the ‘Brussels 2030’ project, the city’s bid to be named the European Capital of Culture. During his time as the director of the Festival de Marseille, Jan received the Chevalie de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture for his contribution to the arts. He is also the former artistic director of the Royal Flemish Theater (KVS), which became a key cultural organisation in Brussels under his leadership.

Audrey Hanard
Audrey Hanard

Chair of the Board of Directors at bpost and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Audrey is a Belgian businesswoman with a wealth of experience in advising corporate, government and philanthropic clients on a range of development and social impact topics. As an Associate Partner at Dalberg Advisors, she works with clients to improve education, employment and health outcomes worldwide through the development, implementation and impact evaluation of inclusive development strategies. Audrey currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors at bpost, leading the Belgian postal operator’s transition from a mail to parcel network. She is the Chair of the Board at Be education, an organisation that supports the improvement of education in Belgium. Audrey is also the Co-Founder and former operational director of Spectralys Biotech, a start-up that provides a unique protein analysis technology for the biopharmaceutical industry. She was previously the president of Groupe Vendredi, a think tank focused on societal issues in Belgium, and head of philanthropy at Telos Impact, a venture philanthropy firm.

Photo of Assita Kanko
Assita Kanko

Member of European Parliament and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Assita is a Belgian author, politician and entrepreneur. Previously a town councillor in Ixelles (one of the largest districts of Brussels), she is a popular media commentator, a columnist for newspaper De Standaard and founder of Polin – the political incubator a start-up to help women enter and advance in politics in Belgium. Growing up as a child in Burkina Faso, Kanko underwent female genital mutilation. After immigrating from the west African nation to Belgium, she became one of the most important fighters for gender equality and women’s rights. Having initially integrated the liberal party, she has since moved to the Flemish conservative party and aims to maintain her advocacy for fairness. She wrote two books on feminism and the position of women.

Kamal Kharmach
Kamal Kharmach

Belgian Stand-Up Comedian, Economics Professor at the Karel de Grote University and 2020-2021 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.

Zakia Khattabi
Zakia Khattabi

Belgian Minister for Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Zakia is President of the Green Party of the Belgian Senate, Senator for the French Community Parliament and Vice President of the Senate’s Justice Commission. She is a member of the PCF & PRB parties. Zakia has an extensive background in politics and project management and has comprehensive experience as a researcher in social issues. She holds a Social Studies degree from the ISFSC in Brussels as well as several other academic diplomas in public management, project management and solidarity studies. Zakia is an avid supporter of anti-racist movements and women’s rights and is a founding member of the Arab Women Solidarity Association and a member of the French Women’s Council in Belgium.

Photo of Raphaël Liégeois
Raphaël Liégeois

Career Astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA) and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Belgian biomedical engineer, physicist and neuroscientist, Raphaël Liégeois is a Career Astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA) and one of five to be selected among over 22,500 applicants in the agency’s latest class of astronauts. He is also a Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Geneva, where he teaches courses in neuroengineering and statistics. Liégeois views science as truly beautiful and believes that it will be central to meeting humanity’s collective challenges. His academic career has also brought him to École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Stanford University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Liège. His research has focused on studying brain dynamics in health and disease, developing dynamic models of brain function and defining new neuroimaging markers of neurodegenerative diseases. An aviation enthusiast, he also pilots hot air balloons, gas balloons and gliders.

Sander Loones
Sander Loones

Member of the Belgian Federal Parliament, former Member of the European Parliament and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Sander is a member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. He was formerly a Member of the European Parliament with the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and Vice President of Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (The New Flemish Alliance). In the European Parliament, Sander was Vice Chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, and a member of Delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Sander has previously worked for the Belgian Ministry of Interior Affairs in the migration office, and as a scientific researcher at the Law faculty of Catholic University Leuven.

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Events

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Selection process

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS/NOMINATIONS FOR THE EYL CLASS OF 2024 IS NOW OPEN

The European Young Leaders programme is a unique, inventive, and multi-stakeholder programme that aims to promote a European identity by engaging the continent’s most promising talents in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future.

The European Young Leaders represent a new generation of European leaders from all over the continent and various backgrounds, including politics, business, civil society, academia, arts, science, and the media.

The programme acts as a forum for those who have already established themselves at the forefront of their professions to meet, discuss and collaborate with their counterparts from other fields of expertise. Previous candidates include government ministers, CEOs, Michelin-starred chefs, international film directors and high-profile journalists.

Since the launch of the programme, 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.

We aim to select 40+ European Young Leaders of diverse backgrounds to enable a broad exchange of ideas, creating the basis for a new generation of engaged European leaders.

 

SELECTION CRITERIA

  • Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age (born on or after 1 January 1984).
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state, the UK, Ukraine or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path towards EU integration (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia).
  • Candidates should have established themselves at 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 of the two EYL seminars during the programme year, usually scheduled for March and September.

Please click HERE for the Selection Guidelines 2023 that will give you an idea of the process. The detailed Selection Guidelines 2024 will be made available shortly for download.

Should you have any questions or need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at eyl40@friendsofeurope.org.

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