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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.


The programme was initially conceived with EuropaNova, a Paris-based think-tank.

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Meet the EYL40

Alicja Gescinska
Alicja Gescinska

Philosopher, writer and TV host, 2019 European Young Leader

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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.

Matthias Niessner
Matthias Niessner

Professor of Computer Science, Technical University of Munich (TUM), 2019 European Young Leader

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Matthias conducts research into 3D digitization at the juncture between the fields of computer graphics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. He currently heads the Visual Computing Lab at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). His research is oriented towards the generation of 3D models of real-world environments using video and range cameras (for example with Deep Learning). One of his most well-known projects involved algorithms that make it possible to manipulate the facial expressions of any subject within a regular YouTube video – which he demonstrated on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Matthias studied computer science and his thesis on the topic of “Subdivision Surface Rendering using Hardware Tessellation” was submitted in 2013 and was awarded the highest honors. From 2013 to 2017, Professor Nießner was a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University.

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Selection process

Join the 2020 class of European Young Leaders

Under the patronage of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, 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.

For examples of current and previous European Young Leaders, please refer to Annex I.

Overview of the selection process

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.

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

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