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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 programme was initially conceived with EuropaNova, a Paris-based think-tank.

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Meet the EYL40

Eva De Roo
Eva De Roo

Radio host at the VRT, 2019 European Young Leader

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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.

Alicja Gescinska
Alicja Gescinska

Philosopher, writer and TV host, 2019 European Young Leader

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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.

Photo of Assita Kanko
Assita Kanko

Member of European Parliament, 2019 European Young Leader

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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.

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Selection process

Join the 2020 class of European Young Leaders

Under the patronage of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, 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 the most promising European leadership from all over the continent and with a wide variety of 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.

For examples of current and previous European Young Leaders, please refer to Annex I.

Overview of the selection process

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.

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. Candidates can either apply or be nominated for the selection process of the programme.

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