About

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

The Frankly Speaking Podcast - Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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The Frankly Speaking Podcast - Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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Episode 12. Frankly Speaking Podcast Series: Special Focus Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Episode 12. Frankly Speaking Podcast Series: Special Focus Russian invasion of Ukraine

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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

Steffen Bilger
Steffen Bilger

Politician, CDU Member of the Bundestag and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Steffen has been a Member of the Bundestag since 2009 and Chairman of the North Württemberg district branch of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party since 2011. From 2018 to 2021 he served as Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Since the 2021 elections, Steffen has been serving as one his parliamentary group’s deputy chairs, under the leadership of chair Ralph Brinkhaus. In this capacity, he oversees the group’s legislative activities on agriculture, environmental policy, nature conservation and consumer protection.

Mario Brandenburg
Mario Brandenburg

German Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Research, computer scientist and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Mario Brandenburg

Mario is a German computer scientist and politician, who currently serves as a Member of the Bundestag for the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He is determined to support Germany’s future through the use of digital technologies. With strong knowledge in quantum computing, biotechnology, AI, 3D printing and blockchain technologies, Mario currently is the Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Research. In addition to his role at the federal level, he remains active in local politics as a Member of the Municipal Council of Rülzheim and the District Council of Germersheim. Mario also has a keen interest in how digital processes can benefit rural areas within society’s digital transformation.

Franziska Katharina Brantner
Franziska Brantner

German Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, former member of the European Parliament, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Franziska Brantner

Franziska is a German politician, who currently serves as Parliamentary State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. She is also the ministry’s Special Coordinator for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Prior to this, Franziska was a member of the Bundestag, and a member the European Parliament, where her work focused on foreign affairs, conflict resolution and rapid crisis response. She also conducted negotiations on the reform of the European External Action Service. Before entering politics, Franziska worked for the Bertelsmann Foundation and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Gyde Jensen
Gyde Jensen

Youngest MP in Germany and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Gyde is the youngest female Member of the German Parliament. She is also Chairwoman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Prior to these posts, she spent time working in Geneva and Washington D.C, in addition to serving as communications manager at a political foundation. She is the co-founder of the start-up network platform, ‘Kiel Starting City’. In October 2017, she was elected a Member to the German Bundestag and is the speaker on human rights for the FDP parliamentary group. Since January 2018, she has chaired the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.

Helena Linder-Jess
Helena Linder-Jess

Military Attachée for the Embassy of Germany to the United States of America and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Helena Linder-Jess

As the first woman as Commanding Officer in the German Navy (FGS Datteln), Helena has participated in several international missions under the United Nations and NATO with her crew. In this role, she has been responsible for all issues concerning her ship, crew and assignments, including extensive training and combat cycles. Helena is the first woman ever to take over the command of a German navy ship.

Gottfried Ludewig
Gottfried Ludewig

Senior Vice President for Health Industry at T-Systems International and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Gottfried Ludewig

Ludewig leads the healthcare division of T-Systems International and is responsible for driving the company’s development of the healthcare market. Prior to his current role, he worked to advance the digitalisation and innovative capacity of Germany’s health sector as the head of the Department of Healthcare Digitalization at the German Ministry of Health, where he was notably responsible for the introduction of the digital vaccination card. Ludewig was also instrumental in promoting the electronic patient file and establishing the FDZ research data centre. As a member of the Berlin House of Representatives, he was the deputy chairman and health policy spokesperson the Christian Democrats Union parliamentary group. In this position, Ludewig was particularly committed to strengthening research and innovation in the healthcare sector.

Julia Obermeier
Julia Obermeier

Resident Representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Julia Obermeier

As the Resident Representative at the political research foundation associated with the Christian Social Union (CSU), Julia works on projects related to strengthening civil society, civic involvement and the rule of law, among other topics, in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Prior to her current role, Julia was elected and served as a member of the German federal parliament at the age of 29. Her political work focused on defence and security policies as a member of the Committee on Defence, which played an important part in the adoption of the defence budget and the procurement of materiel for the armed forces. Julia started her career as a lecturer at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich before joining the office of the CSU, where she held several political positions at the local level. As a member of the CSU policy committee, she played an important role in drafting the new party manifesto.

Photo of Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn

Member of the Bundestag, Deputy Chairman on the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Jens Spahn

Jens is the Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. He was formally the Federal Minister of Health in the Cabinet of Angela Merkel. He has been a member of the Bundestag since 2002, with responsibility for health policies, and a Member of the CDU/CSU Youth Group. He has gathered his experience in government during his time as the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Finance, a post he has held since July 2015. He holds a degree in Banking and Political Science from the University of Hagen, and previously worked as a banker in his hometown of Munster. Jens is a founding member of the ‘Young Member of Parliament’ cross-party group that promotes integration and equality in politics and society.

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Events

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Selection process

APPLICATIONS FOR THE EYL CLASS OF 2023 ARE NOW CLOSED.
NOMINATIONS FOR UKRAINIAN NATIONALS* ARE OPEN UNTIL 24 JUNE 2022

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 1983).
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state, the UK 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.

Please click HERE for the detailed Selection Guidelines 2023.

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

*The current crisis has prompted us to open up the programme to Ukraine as a pilot initiative. In future years we hope to find a way of including more people who are not EU nationals/citizens but are contributing positively to current Europe (e.g., candidates from our neighbourhood countries and refugees).
**References to Kosovo here 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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