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

Leading view

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 Eneko Atxa
Eneko Atxa

Chef at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Azurmendi, 2017 European Young Leader

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Eneko is a leader in international cuisine. In 2007, he opened his now-renowned restaurant Azurmendi in the Basque country. Within five years, the restaurant – located in the beautiful town of Larrabetzu – had been awarded three Michelin stars. Azurmendi was named Most Sustainable Restaurant in the World by the World’s 50 Best in 2014 and as number two on Elite Traveler’s 2016 list of the best restaurants in the world. Eneko has a creative mind, skilled hands and a work ethic based on care, precision and speed. His intense cuisine is deeply rooted in the local Basque identity. He has been named Champion Young Chef in Spain and Best Chef of the Year by the prestigious French gourmet club Fourchettes.

Danka Barteková
Danka Barteková

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

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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.

Soulaima Gourani
Soulaima Gourani

Keynote speaker, author and advisor, 2014 European Young Leader

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Soulaima is a speaker, consultant, author, blogger and an active board member in several public and private companies. It is her vision to change the world to a better more tolerant place through trade and business, and relations between countries and people. She spends part of her time and own money travelling around the world to do “impact journeys”. The past year she has been to Mexico, UAE, India, Jordan, Myanmar and China to work with local entrepreneurs, young global leaders, local schools, change makers and NGOs. Since 2007, she has worked as an advisor and speaker for more than 1000 clients. She has received several prestigious awards among others the Rising Star, the Talent 100 price 2004, PowerWomen, 20 Greatest Nordic Thinkers. Soulaima holds an E-MBA from the Copenhagen Business School.

Photo of Ben Hammersley
Ben Hammersley

Internet Technologist, Journalist & Author, 2014 European Young Leader

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Ben is a British writer and technologist, specialising in the effects of the internet and the ubiquitous digital network on the worldʼs political, cultural and social spheres. He enjoys an international career as a speaker, explaining complex technological and sociological topics to lay audiences and as a high-level advisor on these matters to governments and business. He is currently a Robert Schuman fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, an Innovator in Residence at the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies at Goldsmiths, University of London, a non-resident fellow of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C., a member of the European Commission High Level Group on Media Freedom and contributing editor of the UK edition of WIRED magazine. He is the accredited inventor of the word “Podcast”, published in The Guardian (2004).

Viktoria Modesta
Viktoria Modesta

Bionic pop artist & futurist, 2019 European Young Leader

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Viktoria is a British Latvian-born bionic pop artist, creative director and futurist. Describing her work as post-human and post-disability, she bridges performance art, music and fashion with technology, science and medicine. She first gave us a fresh and glamorous perspective of disability in a cultural content when she performed as the Snow Queen during the closing ceremony of Paralympics 2012 wearing a diamond encrusted prosthetic. Viktoria’s futuristic approach on “the body as art concept” got her selected as a Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab which led her to collaborate on a more academic level with artists working with technology and science, architects and multiple cultural institutions worldwide.

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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Continue to Selection process

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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