First names of EYL40 Class of 2019 revealed

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Now entering its seventh year, Friends of Europe is pleased to announce the first members of the 2019 class of European Young Leaders (EYL40).

A talented and diverse group of young European change-makers, this group does not fall short of vision, passion or action. Among this first batch you’ll find an inspiring head chef, an award-winning war journalist, an engaged LGTBQ activist, an innovator fighting plastic waste, a Hollywood fashion designer, and an Olympic medallist. More names will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Meet our newest Young Leaders:

Danka Barteková, Slovakia
Olympic Bronze medallist 

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, France
Europe and G20 Advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron

Clément Beaune is the Europe and G20 advisor to French president Emmanuel Macron, shadowing him during meetings with other European state heads. His presentations on Europe even when he was still in school were so accomplished that they were widely shared. Clément became Macron’s Europe adviser when Macron was still economy minister. Beaune advised Macron, helping him craft the 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 March Campaign for European Union reform were clearly influenced by his adviser.

Thomas Douzis, Greece
Founder and CEO of ERGON Foods

Thomas is the Founder of ERGON, 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.

Tomáš Ignác Fénix, Czech Republic
Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers

Tomáš is the Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers – the voice of Europe’s next generation of farmers towards the European institutions. He also runs a 50-ha organic fruit and wine family farm in southern Moravia and cooperates with agricultural and environmental institutions as part of his farm business. The motivation to farm in this less favoured region is a holistic approach to (re-)build the countryside. Previously, Tomáš actively engaged in the NGO Antikomplex, working on the German Czech reconciliation. In addition, he led the LGBT Christian community called Logos for four years. His ambition is to advocate for a sustainable agricultural policy and a strong bond of the European nations and between rural areas and cities.

Alicja Gescinska, Poland/Belgium
Philosopher and writer

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.

Suvi Haimi, Finland
CEO and Co-Founder of Sulapac

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.

Maria Lucia Hohan, Romania
Fashion designer and CEO of fashion brand Maria Lucia Hohan

Maria Lucia is an internationally well-known fashion designer, who has seen her clothes worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. After working several years in Paris and Milan as a textile designer, Maria Lucia returned home to Romania to open her own shop with a modest 800 euros investment and two second-hand sewing machines. After gaining a substantial number of followers on social media and being discovered by Hollywood, she currently runs her renowned fashion brand with 70-woman employees from Bucharest. On top, Maria Lucia is a strong advocate for women’s rights and has publicly criticized the excessive consumerism on which the fashion industry thrives.

Abdalla Kablan, Malta
Serial entrepreneur and academic

Abdalla is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning Fintech expert. He specialises in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the design of complex financial systems. Throughout his career, he founded a number of start-ups and companies specialising in deep learning, professional match-making and Fintech. Furthermore, Abdalla is an Alumni of Microsoft Ventures, UK and worked on projects which were featured at the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos. He is also an academic at the University of Malta where he lectures and researches topics related to computational intelligence, financial engineering and financial data science. In addition to these roles, Abdalla advises governments on matters related to strategic development and the utilisation of technology, Fintech, and Blockchain/DLT technologies.

Assita Kanko, Belgium
Author, politician and founder of Polin

Assita is a Belgian author, politician and entrepreneur. She is a town councillor in Ixelles (one of the largest districts of Brussels), a popular media commentator, a columnist for newspaper De Standaard and founder of Polin – the political incubator a start-up to help women enter and advance in politics in Belgium. Growing up as a child in Burkina Faso, Kanko underwent female genital mutilation. After immigrating from the west African nation to Belgium, she became one of the most important fighters for gender equality and women’s rights. Having initially integrated the liberal party, she has since moved to the Flemish conservative party and aims to maintain her advocacy for fairness. She wrote two books on feminism and the position of women.

Andreas Kunze, Germany
CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX

Andreas is the CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX, a company that combines smart sensors and analytics based on artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of guaranteeing the punctual operation and maintenance of railway networks. While working for corporations like Siemens and BMW, Andreas came to the realisation that many industrial companies were not yet aware of the advantages accompanying the Internet of Things, nor did they know how to properly avail of their data. He managed to raise +$50 million with leading Silicon Valley investors and just a year later, KONUX won the national mobility award ‘Deutscher Mobilitätspreis’ along with the German digital award ‘The Spark’ in 2016. That same year, Andreas was the youngest CEO to be included in the entrepreneur list by the German Capital Magazine.

Magid Magid, UK
Lord Mayor of Sheffield 

Magid is the Lord Mayor of Sheffield. He is the youngest person ever to hold the job and he is also the first Green Party councillor to wear the chain of office. Magid came to Sheffield aged five after six months in an Ethiopian refugee camp. He came to study aquatic zoology, after which he worked in digital marketing and for the housing charity Shelter. Magid joined the Green Party in 2015 during the rise of the far-right party UKIP. From 2017 to 2018, he served as Deputy Lord Mayor, and during this period he participated in the third series of the reality show Hunted. In 2018, he was chosen by the council to serve the one-year term as Lord Mayor. In his inaugural portrait, Magid squatted on a balustrade wearing green Dr. Martens, an image that went viral on social media.

Viktoria Modesta, UK/Latvia
Bionic pop artist & futurist

Viktoria Modesta 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.

Roger Montañola i Busquets, Spain
Founder and President of Twenty50

Roger is one of the founding fathers of Twenty50, a think tank that unites the best global talents on a multidisciplinary platform based on cooperation, exchange and thought. Connecting professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and a variety of major cities, Twenty50 maintains that its primary objective is to forge the society of the future. Focusing on technological innovation, the think tank works on a range of issues such as nanorobotics, genomics, AI and virtual reality. As a former MP in the Parliament of Catalonia and as deputy of the Convergència i Unió, Roger was one of the youngest members to join at the age of 24. In 2015, he was selected for the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program by the US State Department.

Una Mullally, Ireland
Writer and LGTBQ activist

A leading voice on LGBTQ rights and politics, Una is one of Ireland’s most reputable young activists. As a journalist, broadcaster and author, she has written for prominent news outlets such as The Guardian and the Sunday Tribune, in addition to contributing a weekly column to the Irish Times. Her two books, In The Name Of Love, and her anthropology, Repeal the 8th, trace the historical developments which culminated in the two separate referenda on marriage equality and reproductive rights in Ireland. She was the Independent Chair of Ireland’s National 2018 LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, which is the first of its kind. A poet and screenwriter, she has authored the documentary, I Am Irish, co-founded a music documentary film festival, co-created the pro-choice podcast, Don’t Stop Repealin’, and co-founded the Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

Alfredo Muñoz, Spain
Founder and CEO, ABIBOO Architecture

Alfredo is a global architect who has designed and managed more than six million square metres across five continents. Named the youngest among the most international Spanish architects by the Spanish media, he has also been selected for the European Center & Chicago Athenaeum Museum Architecture and Design bi-annual awards programme. Under Alfredo’s leadership, ABIBOO has designed projects in a wide range of scales, from large urban developments and affordable housing townships to small temporal structures. Before founding ABIBOO, Alfredo held senior roles at Toyo Ito (Pritzker Prize), and SOM (1,700+ awards). His work has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, Wallpaper and Domus, among others.

Matthias Nießner, Germany
Professor in AI and 3D Digitization

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 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.

Sophie Nivelle-Cardinale, France
Award-winning war journalist

Working as an independent reporter, Sophie is a multi-award-winning journalist who, since 2010, has covered conflicts and issues across the Middle East. Following developments in Lebanon, Libya and Syria, from the outset of the Arab Spring in particular, she has delivered reportages to a number of popular French news outlets. During her time in Istanbul, Sophie was among the first journalists to report from the frontlines of the Syrian war, reporting on the sufferings of civilians  while simultaneously bringing attention and visibility to the victims. In 2013, thanks to her reportage, “At the heart of the battle of Aleppo”, she received two trophies from the highly esteemed Bayeux Calvados-Normandy award for war correspondents, the most prestigious journalism award in France.

Orm Oja, Estonia
Head Chef of NOA Chef’s Hall

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.

Riccardo Sabatini, Italy
Scientist and Co-Founder & Chief Data Officer Orionis Biosciences

Riccardo Sabatini is a renowned Italian scientist and entrepreneur specialized in numerical modelling of complex system, ranging from material science, financial markets, computational genomics and drug design. In 2015 Sabatini and his lab presented an algorithm to predict common traits such as height, eye color, skin color, and even facial structure based on reading a person’s genome via a tiny blood sample. His related TED talk generated a buzz in the scientific and tech communities. Today he’s working on how to solve drug design at genomic scale with his company, Orionis Biosciences. In addition, Sabatini is deeply involved in education for entrepreneurs. He is the founder and co-director of the Quantum ESPRESSO Foundation, a non-profit charity supporting young researchers around the globe to get involved in material science.

Ruben van Zwieten, Netherlands
Pastor and social entrepreneur

Ruben van Zwieten is a Dutch pastor and social entrepreneur, well-known for building bridges between the financial sector and spirituality. As a pastor he fills in for ministers, marries couples and baptises babies, as co-founder of the project Zingeving on the Zuidas (finding meaning in the Amsterdam Financial Sector), he aims to discuss a more human and moral perspective on the financial sector with its employees. Recently he opened The New Gate, a modern community house in Amsterdam and Rotterdam dedicated to philosophy, meeting people, and building a kinder society. Ruben is adviser at Goldschmeding Foundation and board member at VUMC Foundation and also member of the Dutch Monitoring Commission for banks. Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant called him one of the nation’s most influential people.

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Stay tuned for more information on the programme and the activities of the new class and the alumni ‒ follow EYL40 on Twitter and Facebook.

Click here to view the next 20 names of the EYL40 Class of 2019!


Led by Friends of Europe, each year the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme brings together talented, established leaders, aged 40 and under, who have made their mark in a wide range of fields such as politics, science, business, media, NGOs, the arts and civil society.  You can find more information about the programme in the EYL40 overview. The programme was originally conceived with EuropaNova.

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