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

Frankly Speaking Podcast | Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Iran: Unchallenged, till now

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Fighting for the truth in the Western Balkans

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Frankly Speaking Podcast | Fighting for the truth in the Western Balkans

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Everything you didn't know about air pollution. It's scary stuff!

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Everything you didn't know about air pollution. It's scary stuff!

Jane Burston

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Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

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Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Joss Garman

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Una Mullally

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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Alviina Alametsä
Alviina Alametsä

Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Helsinki City Council and 2022 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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A Finnish politician representing the group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, Alviina is an advocate of human rights, peace, the environment, as well as mental health and wellbeing. As a Member of the European Parliament, she serves as a Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as her group’s coordinator for the Subcommittee on Security and Defence. She is also a substitute Member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the Committee on Development, and serves as a Co-Chair of the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing. She was the shadow rapporteur for parliamentary reports on security in the Arctic and the Sahel region. Alviina also serves as a Member of the Helsinki City Council, where she has led several successful initiatives to tackle discrimination, increase accessibility to natural areas and set up low-threshold mental health clinics in the Finnish capital city. Alviina is one of the initiators of #Terapiatakuu, a citizens’ initiative to speed up and facilitate access to mental health care.

Suvi Haimi
Suvi Haimi

CEO and Co-Founder of Sulapac and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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In addition to her role as a biochemist, Suvi is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sulapac, a company that develops innovative and fully biodegradable wood-based packaging. Named one of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups in 2018 by WIRED magazine, Sulapac products offer a viable alternative to the plastic packaging most commonly used for food, commodities and cosmetics. A former researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, Suvi holds a PhD in biomaterials and is committed to halting the build-up of microplastics in the world. In 2017, Sulapac was awarded Europe’s first founder’s prize for the circular economy, going on to win both the Green Alley Award and the Sustainable Beauty Award in Paris that same year.

Meeri Koutaniemi
Meeri Koutaniemi

Photographer, Documentary Filmmaker, Cinematographer and 2020-2021 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Meeri is an internationally renowned Finnish photographer and journalist, admired for her coverage of and portraits on human rights, minorities and empowerment. She garnered significant attention for her work on female genital mutilation in Kenya. This won her the Visa D’or Daily Press Award at France’s most prestigious photojournalism festival, Visa pour l’Image, and the Freelens Award at the Lumix Photo Festival in Hannover. She is also a seasoned documentary filmmaker, focusing her attention on disadvantaged groups such as the ‘Findian’ community in the US or transsexual Mayans in Mexico.

Mika Mäkeläinen
Mika Mäkeläinen

Serial Entrepreneur and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Mika is the Founder of Taivas + helvetti, the Co-Founder of Rainmaker Business and a Partner at Boardman, the leading network of corporate governance specialists in Finland. He is also currently a member of the Finnish Association of Professional Board Members and sits on the board of Sifter Capital. He is the former CEO of GTW Group, a management company that regroups a wide range of companies specialising in diverse fields, such as sales, consultancy, web services, e-commerce, marketing and IT services. In recognition of his work as a successful entrepreneur, Mika has been named the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Finland and among the 100 most influential opinion leaders in Finland.

Photo of Pia Henrietta Moon
Pia Henrietta Moon

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

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Pia Henrietta Moon is the Co-Founder and CEO of Carbo Culture, a climate technology company on a mission to remove one billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually. Carbo Culture removes carbon by converting CO2 from plant waste into a stable form of carbon, also generating renewable energy and carbon credits in the process. Carbo Culture’s breakthrough carbon removal solution solves key scalability challenges of the carbon removal industry. Her prior experience includes growing two organisations in ed-tech: Mehackit, which provides creative technology courses for youth to experience building technology, and Rails Girls, a global non-profit that organised open-source weekend workshops for women to dive into the world of technology. Given her management expertise, Moon was the youngest board member of a publicly traded company in Finland, YE International. Named a Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst, she is also an alumna of Stanford’s StartX founder community.

Sofi Oksanen
Sofi Oksanen

Author, Novelist and Theatrical Writer and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Sofi is a Finnish-Estonian contemporary novelist and theatrical writer who was catapulted into the elite of Finnish literary authors with her first novel, Stalin’s Cows (2003). It created a heated public debate and led to her being nominated for the Runeberg Award, one of Finland’s most prestigious literary prizes. Her first original play, Purge (2008), became a novel ranking number 1 on Finland’s bestseller list. She received numerous awards for Purge, such as the Prix Femina Etranger en France, the European Book Prize and the Nordic Council Literature Prize. She appears regularly in the media and is also known for her opinions in favour of women’s rights and the promotion of equality. For these efforts she has received an award from the University of Helsinki—the University from which she also holds a degree in Literature.

Nasima Razmyar
Nasima Razmyar

Finnish Politician, Member of the Parliament and 2018 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Nasima Razmyar

Nasima is an Afghan-Finnish politician.  She is currently a member of the Finnish Parliament, where she is a member of the Education and Culture Committee and the Environment Committee. Until recently she served as deputy mayor of Helsinki and a former member of the Finnish Parliament, representing the Social Democratic Party. She also works with Finnish NGOs that work to promote gender and ethnic equality in Finland. Nasima’s family first moved to Finland from Afghanistan in 1992, and her refugee experience has shaped her political career, in which she prioritises social welfare such as education, the environment, and housing. Nasima is the first Member of Finnish Parliament to have a refugee background, and in 2010 was named refugee woman of the year by the Finnish Refugee Council for her work to promote equality and the preservation of the Finnish welfare system.

Photo of Kamilla Sultanova
Kamilla Sultanova

Diversity and inclusion expert at ConnectUz and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Kamilla Sultanova

Kamilla is a bridge-builder and a solopreneur based in Helsinki. She has had a successful sales career in Scandinavian shipping companies including Maersk Line, where she was in charge of a global sales strategy execution in more than 20 markets spanning Eastern Europe, Nordics and Middle East. A gifted adviser and passionate advocate, Kamilla has done over 10 years’ worth of activist work in influencing debates, policies and practices in the field of gender equality, inclusion, empowerment and cross-cultural dialogue in the Nordics and the EU. 

Ozan Yanar
Ozan Yanar

Researcher at the Finnish Labour Institute for Economic Research Labore and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Ozan Yanar

Currently, Ozan works as a researcher at the Finnish Labour Institute for Eonomic Research. Formerly, he served as green city counsellor in Helsinki and as member of the Finish Parliament. As a green politician and future economist, he is very interested in the future of work and green economic growth. At the age of 27, he was elected as a Member of the Finnish Parliament and in the past parliamentary term he advocated for social equality and the fight against discrimination. Ozan has worked at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Ozan has also served as the Co-Chair of the Federation of Green Youth and in 2017 he was on the 30 Under 30 list of Forbes.

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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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