About

Ten years ago, 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 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

Photo of Mette Abildgaard
Mette Abildgaard

MP, group chair and political spokesperson for Conservative Party in Denmark and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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In 2015, Mette became one of the youngest individuals to be elected Member to the Danish Parliament. Representing the Conservative People’s Party, she serves as the spokesperson for healthcare, environment, climate and the Danish constitution. In 2016, she was appointed as group chair and political spokesperson, a promotion which made her the youngest person to hold this position in the history of the Conservative People’s Party. Before being elected to the parliament, Mette served as a Member of the Regional Council of the Capital Region of Denmark and worked as a volunteer for the Danish Cancer Society. In addition to these posts, Mette has served on the board of the Metropol College of Higher Education

Danka Barteková
Danka Barteková

Olympic Athlete & chair of Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 Coordination Commission, Slovak Olympic and Sports Committee and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Danka Barteková is a Slovak skeet shooter who won the bronze medal in Women’s Skeet at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2012, she was elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission, where she’s serving as an IOC member for eight years.  Danka will also be part of the IOC Coordination Commission for Lausanne 2020, the third Winter Youth Olympic Games, as the as youngest-ever Chair of an Olympic Coordination Commission. She is currently enrolled in a PhD at the University of Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. Danka also played a leading role in the implementation of the Athlete365 platform, a tool to support all athletes in the world, both in their competitive activity and in post-career.

Clément Beaune
Clément Beaune

French minister for Europe and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Clément was appointed Secretary of State for European affairs in the French government in July 2020. Before that, he served as the Europe and G20 advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron, shadowing him during meetings with other European state heads. A passionate Europhile, his presentations on Europe even when he was still in school were so accomplished that they were widely shared. Clément became Macron’s Europe advisor when Macron was still economy minister. He helped craft the French government’s push against Chinese steel dumping that is now at the heart of the president’s broader vision for a more defensive EU trade policy. The French president’s proposals during his En Marche campaign for European Union reform were clearly influenced by his advisor.

Sophia Bendz
Sophia Bendz

Partner at Cherry Ventures and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Sophia is a Swedish entrepreneur, currently working with Cherry Ventures, a Berlin-based venture capital fund. She focuses on seed-stage investments in successful and sustainable businesses. Now an advisor, she previously worked as Partner at Atomico working on Nordic sourcing activities. Here, she advised founders on communications, marketing strategies as well as on opportunities to scale up their brand. As Global Marketing Director at Spotify from 2007-2014, she established a strong consumer brand from scratch, while launching and marketing the service globally. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors at the non-profit organisation, Race For The Baltic, and the Viktor Rydberg School Foundation

Annalisa Camilli
Annalisa Camilli

Investigative journalist specialising in immigration and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Annalisa is an Italian journalist credited for drawing attention to a wide variety of social issues. Currently working for the news magazine Internazionale, her articles have extensively covered immigration in Italy and Greece as well as human rights and gender inequality across Europe. Having previous experience at Associated press, her stories regularly underline the hardships endured by migrants while crossing the Mediterranean as well as their treatment once in Europe. She is the winner of the 2017 Anne Lindt journalism award for her investigation “The boat without a name” for which she has spent six months investigating the deadliest shipwreck, searching the 28 survivors who are now living all over Europe. She is also a regular contributor to international news outlets such as the Washington Tribune and Politico.

Francesca Cavallo
Francesca Cavallo

Bestselling author of “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”, Founder & CEO of Undercats and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40) 

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Francesca Cavallo is a bestselling author of children’s books, entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Undercats Media. She is the co-creator of ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women that has become a publishing sensation. Francesca’s career began in theatre, where she worked as both a manager for a theatre company and as a playwright. In 2012, she moved to California to co-found a children’s media start-up called Timbuktu Labs, Inc. Since then, she has authored nine picture books that have been translated into more than 47 languages. Her most recent international bestseller is the children’s book “Doctor Li and the Crown-wearing Virus”.

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen
Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen

Speaker and MP of the Lithuanian Parliament, Chess Grandmaster and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Viktorija was appointed Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament in November 2020 and also currently serves as a Member of the Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on European Affairs. She was first elected as a Member of the Lithuanian Parliament in 2015 and became Chair of the Liberal Movement party in 2018. Prior to her career in politics, Viktorija was a professional chess player. Most notably, Viktorija received the Grandmaster title by FIDE in 2010. She has also won the European Women’s Championship and is a two-time Lithuanian gold medalist at the Women’s Chess Olympiads. Viktorija took the decision to enter politics following the realisation that she wanted to contribute to society on a more political level.

Eva De Roo
Eva De Roo

Radio host at the VRT and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Thomas Douzis
Thomas Douzis

Founder and CEO of ERGON Foods and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Thomas is the Founder and CEO of ERGON Foods, an affordable, high-quality Greek restaurant chain-come-grocery store outlet that now has locations in 13 cities worldwide. Thanks to a network of over 150 independent, local, artisanal producers who create 600 products under the unified ERGON brand, the company is able to offer the widest available range of the best that Greece produce has to offer. A role model and an inspiring entrepreneur, Thomas has set an encouraging example for Greek youths on how to thrive in the face of devastating recession.

Joss Garman
Joss Garman

UK Programme Director at the European Climate Foundation (ECF) and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Joss Garman is a British environmental and humanitarian campaigner, who currently works as the UK Programme Director for the European Climate Foundation, where he oversees the organisation’s strategy and grant-making in Britain and advises the organisation on its broader European and international strategies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and also sits on the boards of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and GreenerUK, a coalition of the UK’s largest environmental NGOs. His previous roles include associate director for energy and climate change at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), political advisor to the Labour Party and chief advisor for the British Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He has also held several senior positions at Greenpeace UK, including political director, head of media and head of the energy and climate campaign. During his time at Greenpeace, Joss co-founded the direct action group, Plane Stupid, and acted as an advisor to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and UNICEF.

Alicja Gescinska
Alicja Gescinska

Philosopher, writer and TV host and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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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.

Joséphine Goube
Joséphine Goube

CEO of Sistech and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Joséphine is Chief Executive Officer at Sistech. Prior to this, she was leading Techfugees, an international non-profit coordinating the technology industry answer to the refugee situation. A fierce lobbyist for smarter migration policies, she was selected to be part of the EU’s immigration experts group to advise on the reform of visa rules for foreign entrepreneurs in Europe. In addition to these roles, she is also a board Member for the Norwegian Refugee Council and was nominated as one of the top ‘30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs’ by Forbes in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Prior to founding Techfugees, Joséphine was partnerships manager at Migreat, a London-based start-up which facilitates the movement and settlement of migrants across Europe.

Luke Graham
Luke Graham

Special advisor on the Union to the UK government and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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In his current position as special advisor to the UK government under Boris Johnson, Luke works on fostering greater unity amongst the different countries of the United Kingdom. He was previously a member of parliament for the Conservative Party and served as the parliamentary private secretary to the Cabinet Office. Before entering politics, Luke worked in the private sector as an accountant for over a decade. Upon returning from five years abroad in China, Thailand and the United States, he campaigned for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. He also notably took on the role of finance director for Stronger In, the official Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum. 

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.

Julia Hanzl
Julia Hanzl

Artist/Sculptor and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Julia Hanzl

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).

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Selection process

APPLICATIONS FOR THE EYL CLASS OF 2023 ARE NOW CLOSED.
NOMINATIONS FOR UKRAINIAN NATIONALS* ARE OPEN UNTIL 24 JUNE 2022

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 1983).
  • 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 of the two EYL seminars during the programme year.

Please click HERE for the detailed Selection Guidelines 2023.

Should you have any questions or need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at eyl40@friendsofeurope.org.

*The current crisis has prompted us to open up the programme to Ukraine as a pilot initiative. In future years we hope to find a way of including more people who are not EU nationals/citizens but are contributing positively to current Europe (e.g., candidates from our neighbourhood countries and refugees).
**References to Kosovo here are used without prejudice to positions on status and is 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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