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.
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, a citizens can collaborate and be the drivers of 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. Their passion, their diversity of backgrounds and opinions, and their innovative thinking together create the right formula for generating fresh ideas to build a more forward-thinking Europe.
Our European leaders provide alternative perspectives from outside the institutional and political frameworks to EU decisionmakers writing the rule book.
The European Young Leaders also play the essential role of helping to reconnect people with and rebuild trust in politics by engaging a wider community around key EU policy issues that need a whole economy whole society approach to progress fast.
They are scientists, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, astronomers. They are citizens and their thinking is not bound by multilateral or frameworks, or burocracy.
They help take Europe out of Brussels, in their own countries and cities. They are facilitating citizens’ participation in the creation of a more equal, innovative and inclusive Europe and help 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: the green and digital transformation, strengthening of our democracy, relations with our neighbours, increasing power sharing, and building a more gender and diverse Europe.
Succeeding in these policies together and getting more citizens engaged in European elections will be our litmus test.
Tune in to the EYLs on Friends of Europe’s Leading Views podcast
Leading viewJoss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?
Leading viewNegar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media
Leading viewUna Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change
Meet the EYL40
Emily is the co-chair of the Belgian Green Party Ecolo since 2012. Before that, she served as the regional president of the Walloon Parliament, a position she has held since 2009. Very early in her career she was elected President of the Federation of Francopone Students, a student organisation, and then became Political Secretary to the Belgian French Community’s Minister of Children, Jean-Marc Nollet. She also worked within several organisations and local associations, such as the Ligue des Familles. In 2009, she was elected to the Walloon Parliament and, six weeks later, she became its President. Emily is one of the youngest and most well-known politicians in Belgium.
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.
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.
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.
Sammy, the son of an Iraqi political refugee and a Belgian mother, has become the first ever Chairman from Brussels to lead the Flemish ‘Jong CD&V’ party. He has previously served as a parliamentary assistant and writes a regular column for the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. Passionate about issues related to integration and equality, Sammy is viewed as a bridge builder between Belgium’s Muslim and non-Muslim populations.
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PLEASE NOTE THAT THE APPLICATION DEADLINE WAS MARCH 15. THE APPLICATION PROCESS IS NOW 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 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.
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 in order 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 1982);
- 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 seminar during the programme year.
To be considered for the 2022 selection process, all applications and nominations must be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Application deadline: Monday, 15 March 2021
To read in detail about the selection process, please click here
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