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.


In 2012, 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 10th 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

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Meet the EYL40

Guillem Anglada-Escudé
Guillem Anglada-Escudé

Astrophysicist and Exoplanet Discoverer; Ramón y Cajal Research Fellow at the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CISC) and 2018 European Young Leader

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Guillem Anglada-Escudé is a well-known astrophysicist and scientist, whose current work focuses on exoplanet detection and planetary exploration. Most notably, Guillem and his team discovered the Proxima b exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri, our closest neighbouring star and the nearest star to the Sun. He- has previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science, University of Goettingen, as well as Queen Mary University of London, where he became a reader in astronomy. He has conducted research in several countries and has been actively engaged with space agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency. In 2016, Guillem was named among the ten most prominent scientists worldwide by Science Magazine and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Photo of Inés Arrimadas García
Inés Arrimadas García

Leader of the Citizens Party in the Spanish Parliament and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Inés Arrimadas García serves as a Member of the Spanish parliament and is the Leader and Spokesperson of the Citizens (“Ciudadanos”) party. As a former member of the Parliament of Catalonia, Inés sat on the Committee of Business and Employment, focusing on socio-economic issues including unemployment and inequality, and went on to become the leader of the opposition. Under her leadership, the Citizens party became a major contender and won a majority in the Catalonian parliament. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was named among the Young European of the Year category by the Liberal Democrat Local and Regional Politicians (LeaDeR) Awards. Inés started her career in the private sector, working for a consulting firm, which specialised in EU-funded project management related to territorial development and service management. She was also previously responsible for quality and administration management in a group of companies in the petrochemical sector.

Photo of Eneko Atxa
Eneko Atxa

Chef at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Azurmendi and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Eneko is a leader in international cuisine. In 2007, he opened his now-renowned restaurant Azurmendi in the Basque country. Within five years, the restaurant – located in the beautiful town of Larrabetzu – had been awarded three Michelin stars. Azurmendi was named Most Sustainable Restaurant in the World by the World’s 50 Best in 2014 and as number two on Elite Traveler’s 2016 list of the best restaurants in the world. Eneko has a creative mind, skilled hands and a work ethic based on care, precision and speed. His intense cuisine is deeply rooted in the local Basque identity. He has been named Champion Young Chef in Spain and Best Chef of the Year by the prestigious French gourmet club Fourchettes.

Photo of Andrea Barber Lazcano
Andrea Barber Lazcano

Co-Founder and CEO of RatedPower and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Andrea Barber Lazcano is a Spanish entrepreneur and champion of sustainable energy. As the Co-Founder and CEO of RatedPower, she leads the sustainable and energy-efficient design and construction of solar photovoltaic (PV) plants. The award-winning, cloud-based software company’s pvDesign is a game-changing technology that has transformed and revolutionised traditional engineering through optimisation and automatisation in order to improve the performance and profitability of solar PV plants. Barber Lazcano is on a mission to accelerate the energy transition by contributing to the widespread use of solar energy, reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the competitiveness of sustainable energy worldwide, with plans to expand beyond the solar sector and into the wind and storage sectors. A champion of female entrepreneurship, Barber Lazcano also hosts the Vostok 6 podcast, which gives visibility to the stories of trailblazing women, in order to inspire and empower listeners.

Ignacio Escolar
Ignacio Escolar

Founder and Director at El Diario, 2013 European Young Leader

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Ignacio is a journalist, political analyst and Founder and Director of www.eldiario.es, an online media political analysis site. Previously Ignacio founded and managed the well-known newspaper Publico. He also manages www.escolar.net, the most popular and widely read political blog in Spain, which was named best political and journalist blog of the year in 2008 and 2009. Ignacio is also the founder of Bitban, a technology and design consulting company for Internet media communication, working with clients all over the world. In 2009 he was awarded the José Manuel Porquet Journalism Prize, the Mujeres Progresistas Prize for declining to publish prostitution ads in Publico and the Nicolas Salmeron for Human Rights Prize.

Andrea Fernández Benéitez
Andrea Fernández Benéitez

Secretary of Equality for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Andrea Fernández Benéitez

Andrea is a Spanish lawyer and politician, who currently serves as the Secretary of Equality for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the government’s ruling party. As a Member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, she is the Deputy Spokesperson of the Justice Commission and the First Vice President of the Commission for the audit of democratic quality, the fight against corruption and institutional and legal reforms. She is also committed to NGOs which provide free legal and psychological assistance to people who are victims of abuse and sexual violence. Andrea previously practiced corporate law and has held various positions within different youth organisations, including as a member of the Permanent Commission of the School Council of Castile and León, and as the secretary-general of the Autonomous Federation of Student Associations (FADAE).

Jorge Juan Fernandez Garcia
Jorge Juan Fernandez Garcia

Director of Innovation, European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), 2014 European Young Leader

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Jorge Juan Fernández García is EIT Health’s Director of Innovation, where he plays a vital role in shaping the wide range of Innovation Projects that the organisation develops and supports. Before joining EIT Health, Jorge was Director of E-Health within the Innovation Department at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona – one of the most relevant examples in Europe where a healthcare provider is using online care, telemedicine, mobile apps and health 2.0 tools to put the patient in the centre of care – and Director of Moebio, an initiative to develop healthcare entrepreneurs and future leaders in healthcare. Jorge has more than 18 years of experience in healthcare and life sciences, the last eight years fully dedicated to innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, at the intersection of business, government, and academia. He regularly acts as advisor and mentor to various healthcare start-ups and entrepreneurial acceleration programs, where he helps create a stronger ecosystem in the biomedical and healthcare industries.

Josep-Maria Gascón
Josep-Maria Gascón

Co-Founder & CEO of Vitaes and Meditech Capital and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Josep-Maria Gascón is the Co-Founder and CEO Meditech Capital, a telemedicine company which diagnoses cardiovascular diseases, and Vitaes, a boutique strategic executive consulting firm that provides insights on macroeconomic data to help high-level decision-makers understand the evolution of societies and economies, as well as asses business options and risks. He is the former director of strategy and competitive intelligence within Ministry of Business of the Government of Catalonia and previously served as the head of finance excellence and one of the leading lawyers at the chemical giant Solvay. Josep-Maria received the Forbes 40 under Forty Award as one of the best young lawyers in the Iberian Peninsula. He has held several senior positions on all continents in general management, business strategy, as well as legal and tax advice. He was appointed a Business Ambassador by the Government of Catalonia for his role in attracting investment to the region. Josep-Maria is also the President of the World Chemical Summit and a Professor of Resource Management at the GBSB Global Business School. He is a frequent speaker and authors articles in international and national media about leadership, organisational behaviour, change management and geopolitics.

Moha Gerehou
Moha Gerehou

Journalist, Contributor at Vogue Spain and La Hora de La 1 and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Moha is a Spanish journalist and anti-racism activist. Prior to his current roles at Vogue Spain and La Hora de La 1, he wrote for eldiario.es, a leading online newspaper in Spain, contributing op-eds and video content on issues related to race and discrimination. Moha served as president of SOS Racismo Madrid, a prominent organisation that seeks to combat racism and xenophobia. Additionally, Moha is active on the speaker circuit and is a lecturer at the University of Syracuse and the University of Stanford’s campuses in Madrid. Known for utilising both print and multimedia content to advance his message, Moha is the creator of the audio-visual monologue, “How my life would be if I were a black character in a movie”, and one of the authors of the book, “Lost in Media: Migrant Perspectives and the Public Sphere”.

Javier Gonzalez
Javier Gonzalez

Entrepreneur and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Javier is an entrepreneur and founder of a number of award-winning technology start-ups, which have been backed by top venture capital funds and multinational corporations. Javier is currently a shareholder and board member of several tech companies, prior to which he was the international director of Digimarc Corporation and served in management roles for various start-ups, including Alvento and Mobile 365 Inc. He founded aquaMobile SL, a mobile value-added services provider based in Madrid, which became one of the most successful digital watermarking solutions companies during his time as CEO. He is also the co-founder of the tMA Foundation, which encourages innovation and entrepreneurial projects in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and operates FabLab León, a member of MIT’s FabLab Network and host of the Fab Academy training program.

María González Veracruz
María González Veracruz

Former spokesman, Spanish Congress of Deputies and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on María González Veracruz

María is a Spanish politician who formerly served as a Member of the Congress of Deputies for the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). María’s background is in biochemistry, having earned a degree in the subject with research experience in molecular genetics. She entered politics at an early age, becoming Secretary-General of the Young Socialists for the Region of Murcia in 2003, and was appointed Secretary for Housing and Quality of Life in the Federal Executive Committee of the party in 2007 when she was elected as Member of the Regional Assembly of Murcia. In the 2011 general election, María was elected to the Congress of Deputies, working as Secretary of Innovation and New Technologies in the PSOE Federal Executive.

Arancha Martínez Fernández
Arancha Martínez Fernández

Founder of It-willbe.org, Co-Founder and CEO of The Common Good Chain, and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Arancha Martínez Fernández

Arancha is a Spanish social innovator on a mission to maximise the impact of social projects. With 13 years of experience in the field of humanitarian aid, Arancha is tackling poverty through innovation and reshaping the world of philanthropy. She founded It-willbe.org to maximise aid and funds by leveraging data to understand the dimensions and significance of problems faced by vulnerable people. Its largest project, the People’s Protection App, promotes the right to identity by accurately identifying homeless minors through biometrical recognition and data processing software, making “invisible” people visible. Arancha is also the Co-Founder and CEO of The Common Good Chain, the first blockchain-backed platform to measure and report social impact across entire value chains, providing the social sector with the traceability and transparency it needs to transform society. In recognition of her work, she has received the European Commission’s EU Prize for Women Innovators and the Princess of Girona Social Award.

Photo of Juan Mata
Juan Mata

Professional footballer, Co-Founder of Common Goal and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Juan Mata

Juan Mata is a Spanish professional footballer and the Co-Founder of Common Goal, a charitable fund that aims to generate sustainable and equitable social change through the cultural force that is football. The movement motivates stakeholders in the football industry to pledge 1% of their income to a collective fund that supports active projects worldwide. Mata currently plays midfield for Galatasaray in Istanbul. Having previously played for Manchester United and Chelsea, he is considered among the best attacking midfields to have played in the Premier League. Before moving to the United Kingdom, Mata played for Castilla in Madrid and then Valencia CF, where he won his first professional title, the Copa del Rey. He helped secure Spain’s win at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Notably, alongside a Chelsea teammate, Mata was the first footballer to hold the Champions League, Europa League, World Cup and the European Championship simultaneously.

Rebeca Minguela
Rebeca Minguela

Founder and CEO of Clarity AI and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Rebeca Minguela

As Founder of Clarity AI, Rebeca looks to solve the problem of inefficient and unequal allocation of capital by building an automated tool which rates the investment portfolios of a range of projects, companies, governments and NGOs. Rebeca is also the Founder of the Blink Booking mobile app, an award-winning last-minute booking app that is a market leader in Europe with more than 800,000 downloads, almost 3,000 hotels and available in six languages before its sale to Groupon. Previously, Rebeca served as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and as engineer at the German Aerospace Agency, Siemens and IBM.

Roger Montañola i Busquets
Roger Montañola i Busquets

Founder and President of Twenty50 and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Roger Montañola i Busquets

Roger is one of the founding fathers of Twenty50, a think tank that unites the best global talents on a multidisciplinary platform based on cooperation, exchange and thought. Connecting professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and a variety of major cities, Twenty50 maintains that its primary objective is to forge the society of the future. Focusing on technological innovation, the think tank works on a range of issues such as nanorobotics, genomics, AI and virtual reality. As a former MP in the Parliament of Catalonia and as deputy of the Convergència i Unió, Roger was one of the youngest members to join at the age of 24. In 2015, he was selected for the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program by the US State Department.

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Selection process

THE CALL FOR APPLICATIONS/NOMINATIONS FOR THE EYL40 CLASS OF 2024 IS NOW OFFICIALLY CLOSED

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 United Kingdom, 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 EYL40 seminars during the programme year, usually scheduled for March and September.

Please click HERE for the 2024 selection guidelines, which will give you an idea of the process and provide you with link to the nomination/application form.

Please note that the deadline for the nominations/applications is 28 April 2023.

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

We look forward to receiving your applications and nominations.

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