About

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.


Tune in to the EYLs on Friends of Europe’s Leading Views podcast

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

Leading view

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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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Negar Mortazavi

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

Leading view

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

Photo of Klen Jäärats
Klen Jäärats

Director for EU Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister of Estonia, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

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As Director of the EU Secretariat in the Estonian government, Klen coordinates and develops all EU policy and acts as the chief European affairs adviser to the Prime Minister. A career civil servant, Klen started out in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, rising quickly to the position of Head of the Refugees Department. In this capacity, he dealt with a variety of NGOs and international organisations including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He later moved to Brussels where he spent six years working at the Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU during which time he dealt with many issues related to the preparation, ratification and implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Photo of Kaja Kallas
Kaja Kallas

Leader of the Liberal Reform Party, 2017 European Young Leader

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A competition lawyer by profession, Kaja was elected Member of the Estonian Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Economic Affairs in 2011. After being elected to the European Parliament in 2014, she became a prominent proponent of innovation and frequently emphasised that regulations should not hinder the technological revolution. She authored five reports in the European Parliament, including of an own-initiative report on the Digital Single Market. Kaja left the European sphere in 2018 to become leader of Estonia’s Liberal Reform Party. Despite steered her party to victory in the 2019 national elections, she was declined the country’s leadership position which would have made her the country’s first female prime-minister. She is currently using her influence to counter the far-right coalition government’s agenda.

Kristel Kruustuk
Kristel Kruustuk

Founder and CEO of Testilo, 2018 European Young Leader

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As CEO and co-founder of Testlio, Kristel leads a professional testing platform that helps software developers by connecting them to the best testers all over the world. The business is still growing rapidly, having already raised more than $6.25 million in investment capital, and works with a roster of major US and international clients, including the NBA, Microsoft, CBS and Hotels.com.

Photo of Juhan Lepassaar
Juhan Lepassaar

Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner for Transport, European Commission, 2014 European Young Leader

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Juhan is Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Siim Kallas, European Commissioner for Transport since 2013. Currently, he is responsible for coordinating policy in the fields of rail and road transport and also covers non-portfolio issues such as energy policy, internal affairs, Economic and Monetary Union and the Eastern Partnership. Before he was Director for EU Affairs at the Government Office in Estonia. In this capacity he acted as the Prime Minister’s chief adviser for EU affairs and head of Estonia’s inter-ministerial coordination system of EU policy. He conducted the high-level negotiations for the 2014-2020 MFF, and participated in the EU’s response to the international financial crisis and subsequent reform of the EMU. Juhan holds an MA in Contemporary European Policy from the University of Sussex and a degree in Comparative Politics from University of Tartu. He has also studied interior design at the Estonian Art Academy.

Orm Oja
Orm Oja

Head Chef, NOA Chef's Hall, 2019 European Young Leader

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Orm is Head Chef at NOA Chef’s Hall, the White Guide’s pick for best restaurant in both the Baltics and Estonia for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Orm’s cooking, a mix of avant-garde and more traditional methods, keeps sustainability at its heart, with his dishes frequently relying on 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’s restaurant takes advantage of techniques such as pickling to preserve the nutrients and tastes of summer during the cold winter months. At only 26 years old and having already led NOA Chef’s Hall to being nominated 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.

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Selection process

The EYL40 programme is a unique, multi-stakeholder programme which aims to promote a sense of European identity by bringing together forty of the brightest European leaders every year and engaging them in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future. 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. Additionally, in 2020, the programme will include 6 Young Leaders from the Western Balkan region. In doing so, we aim to promote structural dialogue across the continent that will foster better mutual understanding.

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

Selection criteria:

  •  Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age;
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path towards EU integration (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro);
  • Candidates should have established themselves 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.

The deadline for nominations and applications for the 2020 European Young Leaders class has passed. We are currently reviewing the candidates and aim to announce the 2020 class before the end of 2019. We will open the application and nomination period for the class of 2021 in the spring of 2020.

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