Meet the new EYL40 Class of 2024!

This year’s EYL40 Class of 2024 includes an Olympic swimmer, a glaciologist, politicians from all levels of government and members of national parliaments, a winemaker, green tech entrepreneurs and social activists, prize-winning journalists, Unicorn and start-up founders and CEOs, a pioneering playwright of Roma feminist theatre and many more!



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

Policy Voices | Are we alone in the universe?

Leading view

Policy Voices | Are we alone in the universe?

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Policy Voices | Like Goebbels: Polish propaganda and the demise of democracy

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Policy Voices | Like Goebbels: Polish propaganda and the demise of democracy

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Policy Voices | The Netherlands chose the far-right. What happens next?

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Policy Voices | The Netherlands chose the far-right. What happens next?

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Policy Voices Podcast | Keeping the human in the loop: How to make a success story of AI in health

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Policy Voices Podcast | Keeping the human in the loop: How to make a success story of AI in health

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Meet the EYL40

Madeleine Darya Alizadeh
Madeleine Darya Alizadeh

Founder & CEO of dariadéh, author, activist and 2024 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Madeleine Darya Alizadeh, known as dariadaria, is an Austrian content creator and entrepreneur.  She founded dariadéh, a fashion label trying to be more size-inclusive and sustainable. The company also hosts a second-hand platform for customers to resell their ‘preloved’ purchases. She wrote a green lifestyle column for Wienerin magazine and produced and hosted a mindful mess podcast, which discussed personal development and sustainable living. She authored the book, “Starkes weiches Herz” (“Strong soft heart”), which ranked on a Literatur-Spiegel bestseller list, among others. Now with over 335k followers on Instagram, Alizadeh became a leading voice in the world of sustainable fashion through her popular fashion blog, dariadaria.

Photo of Muna Duzdar
Muna Duzdar

Member of the National Council for the Social Democratic Party & Spokesperson for Eenergy and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A lawyer by training, Muna is passionate about politics. During her studies, she was the international secretary of Socialist Youth Austria and worked for the French Socialist Party. After graduation, she became a local councillor in the Vienna-Donaustadt district at the age of 23. In 2010, she joined the Austrian Federal Council where she became the Social Democrat spokesperson on foreign policy. Six years later, she was nominated as Secretary of State in the Office of the Federal Chancellery. Muna is also the President of the Palestinian-Austrian Society, a group that aims to deepen exchanges between Austrians and Palestinians and play an active part in Austrian society by promoting anti-racist, democratic and transnational programmes.

Melisa Erkurt
Melisa Erkurt

Journalist, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Die Chefredaktion and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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An Austrian journalist and author, Melisa founded @die_chefredaktion, an Instagram-based medium that produces diverse journalism by and for young people. Recognising that traditional media is too far removed from teenagers and young people, the account offers younger generations a new type of interactive journalism and has enjoyed tremendous success. As Editor-in-Chief, she leads a young editorial team in the production and publication of journalistic contributions and video reports on social and political topics. Melisa also hosts the Ö1 Sprechstunde podcast and writes two weekly columns for Falter and taz magazines on education policy and equal opportunities. Her report, “Generation haram – why schools have to learn to give everyone a voice”, on discrimination and restrictive culture in Austrian schools for Biber magazine is based on two years of research and first-hand experience as a former teacher. Generating significant public interest, the report went on to win Story of the Year at the Austrian Journalism Days.

Julia Hanzl
Julia Hanzl

Artist/Sculptor and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Julia is a sculptor producing a variety of independent work as well as numerous commissioned pieces. These include urn designs for Bestattung Wien (Vienna funeral service) and a life-size graveyard angel made of bronze for a Viennese crypt. Julia regularly collaborates with artists and gallery owners, creating exhibits showing video and photographic visualisations of her sculptures as well as a glass version of her sculpture “Who killed Smiley?”. She also works with a German jewellery-maker, turning her ideas into pieces of jewellery. In 2014, she was named one of the most important figurative artists worldwide, a recognition which led two of her sculptures to be included in the art book “500 Figures in Clay” (Lark Crafts/New York).

Elisabeth Köstinger
Elisabeth Köstinger

Austrian Minister for Sustainability and Tourism and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Elisabeth is an Austrian politician and the current Federal Minister for Sustainability, Agriculture and Tourism in the Austrian government. Previously, Elisabeth was the President of the National Council, the first chamber of the Austrian Parliament, and a Member of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2017, belonging to the European People’s Party Group (EPP), and won the MEP Award for her work in agriculture and rural development in 2014. She currently serves as the Vice-President of the Austrian Farmers Association, and continues to passionately advocate for issues related to rural areas and their development.

Sonja Steßl
Sonja Steßl

former Austrian state secretary at the Federal Chancellery, Board Member of the Wiener Städtische Versicherung and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Before her current appointment, Sonja worked at the Vienna Insurance Group AG amongst others as their regional director in Styria after having joined the private sector in 2016. Prior to this, she served as Austria’s State Secretary for Public Administration as well as State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance. Sonja has also been Deputy Chairwoman of the SPÖ Regional Party Committee in south-east Styria, Member of the Women’s Federal Executive Committee of the SPÖ and Chairwoman of Volkshilfe social services in Feldbach. In addition to this, she has been Chairwoman of the Nomination Committee of the Austrian State and Industrial Holding Ltd (ÖBIB). Sonja was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2009, and concurrently taught business law at the KMU-Academy & Management in Linz.

Photo of Katharina Unger
Katharina Unger

Founder and CEO of Livin Farms and 2023 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Katharina Unger is an Austrian thought leader in sustainability, food and agricultural innovation. Following the success of her first project, Farm432, which was designed to rear the black soldier fly larvae and won the Red Dot Design Award, she founded Livin Farms, a company that turns organic food waste into valuable insect protein. Her fascination with home insect farms began while researching the impacts of factory farming and industrial meat production. Unger believes that a designer must observe the world on a systems level in order to create impact through physical or strategic inventions. She has been awarded the BraunPrize Sustainability Award, the Bio Art & Design Award and the Core77 Design Award, among others, in recognition of her work to identify novel sources of protein and fertilizers. Unger was also named among the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Europe.

Florian Zinoecker
Florian Zinoecker

Head of Corporate Governance and Internal Policies at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Florian is Head of the corporate governance and internal policies division at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), where he is responsible for the preparation of decisions and meetings of the Board of Governors (eurozone finance ministers), Board of Directors and Board of Auditors. He has worked in economic and financial affairs in the areas of central banking and monetary policy in various capacities including at the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Central Bank (ECB). He has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as a Master’s in Advanced European Studies from the University of Vienna.

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Selection process


The European Young Leaders (EYL40) 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 1985).
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state, the UK, Ukraine, Moldova or 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 2025 that will give you an idea of the process and will provide you with a link to the nomination/application form.

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.

* References to Kosovo here are used without prejudice to positions on status and are 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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