A British feminist and activist, Adwoa has modelled for the likes of Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Fendi, and starred on the covers of international publications, including Vogue and i-D. She has also featured in short films, music videos and most recently, the Hollywood movie, “Ghost in the Shell”. Recognised as a Next Generation Leader on the cover of Time magazine, she has become among the most influential voices of her generation. Adwoa, having struggled with depression and addiction, recognised the lack of mental health resources for young women. This inspired her to launch Gurls Talk, a mental health organisation that offers young women a safe space to discuss a wide range of issues, including loneliness, body image and sexuality. Having started as an Instagram account, Gurls Talk has grown to include an online community, weekly podcast and live events in major cities, including London, Los Angeles, Accra and Warsaw.
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
Leading viewFrankly Speaking Podcast | Iran: Unchallenged, till now
Leading viewFrankly Speaking Podcast | Fighting for the truth in the Western Balkans
Leading viewEverything you didn't know about air pollution. It's scary stuff!
Leading viewJoss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?
Leading viewUna Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change
Meet the EYL40
A Maltese athlete and climate activist determined to eliminate marine plastic pollution, Neil created Wave of Change, a movement to encourage a behavioural shift in society’s plastic use. Neil swims great distances to raise awareness about marine pollution and inspire others to collect three items of rubbish when visiting the seaside. He has swum a 100km journey from Sicily to Malta in an astonishing 28 hours, as well as around the entire island of Malta. Most recently, he swam the 125.6km journey from the Italian island of Linosa to Gozo in just over 52 hours, breaking the previous world record for the longest continuous, unassisted, current-neutral swim along a single-segment natural route in ocean, sea or bay. The entire swim was livestreamed, attracting over 2mn viewers, which Neil used as a platform to highlight plastic pollution in our oceans. The former competitive swimmer participated in the Athens Olympic Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe.
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.
Witold is a former Polish athlete, who currently heads WADA in its mission to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport. He is the youngest person to assume the presidency of WADA in its 22-year history. Witold values sportsmanship and actively demonstrates the importance of listening to athletes. Under his leadership, WADA is reinforcing the global anti-doping programme through implementation of the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code. He is also strengthening the Agency’s governance, with more independent voices, athletes and anti-doping experts involved in the organisation’s decision-making processes. Witold previously served as the Polish minister of sport and tourism and, for nearly a decade, he competed internationally as a 400m sprinter. Most notably, Witold won a bronze medal in the 4x400m relay at the 2007 World Championships.
Danka Barteková is a Slovak skeet shooter who won the bronze medal in Women’s Skeet at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2012, she was elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission, where she’s serving as an IOC member for eight years. Danka will also be part of the IOC Coordination Commission for Lausanne 2020, the third Winter Youth Olympic Games, as the as youngest-ever Chair of an Olympic Coordination Commission. She is currently enrolled in a PhD at the University of Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. Danka also played a leading role in the implementation of the Athlete365 platform, a tool to support all athletes in the world, both in their competitive activity and in post-career.
A professional Italian volleyball player, Valentina is a true role model for girls and women in sport. She currently sports the #7 jersey for LKS Commercecon Lodz in Poland, prior to which she played for Wealth Planet Perugia in Italy. Valentina is an Ambassador for Laureus Italia and Nike Made to Play project, two initiatives which encourage inclusion, gender equality and female leadership in youth sports. Before returning to Italy to play for the Italian women’s volleyball league, Serie A1, Valentina spent three seasons abroad. She played for KGC Ginseng in South Korea, where she scored a personal record of 54 points in a single match and earned her position among the top 10 best single-game scorers in the world. While playing for Associação Vôlei Bauru in Brazil, she helped lead the team to its victory at the Paulista Championship. Valentina has won gold medals with the national Italian team at the U20 World Championship and Mediterranean Games.
Yann Fleureau is a French engineer, entrepreneur and thought leader in the application of artificial intelligence in healthcare. He co-founded Cardiologs to enhance cardiac care and specifically heart disease diagnostics through the use of AI and cloud technology. The medical technology start-up is famed for developing one of the world’s first CE-marked and FDA-approved medical devices powered by deep learning technology. Under Fleureau’s leadership as CEO, Cardiologs became a market leader in the United States and diagnoses over two million patients worldwide each year. Named BNP Paribas European Innovator of the Year and among the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Europe, Fleureau is now pursuing new projects to positively impact the field of digital medicine through deep technology. He is also an active investor in deep medical and biotechnologies, including surgical robotics, alternative proteins and AI diagnostics.
Soulaima is a speaker, consultant, author, blogger and an active board member in several public and private companies. It is her vision to change the world to a better more tolerant place through trade and business, and relations between countries and people. She spends part of her time and own money travelling around the world to do “impact journeys”. The past year she has been to Mexico, UAE, India, Jordan, Myanmar and China to work with local entrepreneurs, young global leaders, local schools, change makers and NGOs. Since 2007, she has worked as an advisor and speaker for more than 1000 clients. She has received several prestigious awards among others the Rising Star, the Talent 100 price 2004, PowerWomen, 20 Greatest Nordic Thinkers. Soulaima holds an E-MBA from the Copenhagen Business School.
Ben is a British writer and technologist, specialising in the effects of the internet and the ubiquitous digital network on the worldʼs political, cultural and social spheres. He enjoys an international career as a speaker, explaining complex technological and sociological topics to lay audiences and as a high-level advisor on these matters to governments and business. He is currently a Robert Schuman fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, an Innovator in Residence at the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies at Goldsmiths, University of London, a non-resident fellow of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C., a member of the European Commission High Level Group on Media Freedom and contributing editor of the UK edition of WIRED magazine. He is the accredited inventor of the word “Podcast”, published in The Guardian (2004).
Nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’, Katinka is a competitive swimmer from Hungary. The three-time Olympic gold medallist, nine-time World Champion and 14-time European Champion holds 96 medals and aims to be the first swimmer with 100. Katinka is the only swimmer ever to hold all five individual medley world records at the same time. Recognised as the most versatile swimmer in the world, she has been named Female Swimmer of the Year by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) four times and Hungarian Sportswoman of the Year seven times. Katinka founded the Iron Swim Club in Budapest for recreational and professional swimmers, preparing athletes of all ages for domestic and international competitions. The swimming icon currently competes for her own team, Team Iron, as its captain and is a Founding Member of the International Swimming League, an annual team-based swimming competition established by a group of athletes.
A competitive sailor from Cyprus, Pavlos is an Olympic medallist and the first and only athlete to win an Olympic medal for the country. Following his historic win, he went on to place second at the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) World Championship and then earned the title of World Champion for two consecutive years, as well as European Champion. Pavlos has been recognised as the Cyprus Athlete of the Year seven times. He is a true role model for young athletes and actively supports the sporting community in his country. Ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, Pavlos launched the #TowardsTokyo campaign to financially support five promising Cypriot athletes in their preparations to qualify for the national Olympics team, four of which were successful in reaching Tokyo.
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.
Viktoria is a British Latvian-born bionic pop artist, creative director and futurist. Describing her work as post-human and post-disability, she bridges performance art, music and fashion with technology, science and medicine. She first gave us a fresh and glamorous perspective of disability in a cultural content when she performed as the Snow Queen during the closing ceremony of Paralympics 2012 wearing a diamond encrusted prosthetic. Viktoria’s futuristic approach on “the body as art concept” got her selected as a Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab which led her to collaborate on a more academic level with artists working with technology and science, architects and multiple cultural institutions worldwide.
Orm is the Co-Founder and Top Chef at Clean Kitchen, an innovative cooking service that brings the experience of food to homes comfortably. Previously, Orm was the head chef at NOA Chef’s Hall, the White Guide’s pick for best restaurant in both the Baltics and Estonia in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Orm’s cooking, a mix of avant-garde and more traditional methods, keeps sustainability at its heart. His dishes frequently feature Estonia’s generous endowment of wild herbs, an inventory from which he forages his own ingredients. Following the rhythm of the four seasons of the north, Orm takes advantage of techniques such as pickling to preserve the nutrients and tastes of summer during the cold winter months. Having led NOA Chef’s Hall to its nomination as one of the best new dining experience destinations by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, Orm’s ambitions are now fixed on the prospect of achieving his first Michelin star.
A Montenegrin high jump athlete, Marija Vuković made history when she won the country’s first-ever athletic gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics, where she cleared a 1.91 metre high jump. She has earned the top spot on the podium at the Games of the Small States of Europe five times throughout her sporting career. At the 2021 Balkan Championships, Vuković achieved her current personal best in the high jump, which stands at 1.97 metres and led her to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she became the first athlete from Montenegro to reach an Olympic final and placed ninth. Since, she has medalled at the 2022 Mediterranean Games and the European Athletics Championships, where she once again made history as the first medallist from her home country. Notably, Vuković was awarded the title of Montenegro’s best athlete by the Montenegrin Olympic Committee.
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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Area of Expertise
- Area of Expertise
- Climate, Energy & Sustainability
- Area of Expertise
- Climate, Energy & Sustainability
- Area of Expertise
- Climate, Energy & Sustainability