Meet the 2020 Class of European Young Leaders (Part 1)

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Citizens' Europe

Friends of Europe is pleased to announce the first half of the European Young Leaders (EYL40) class of 2020. This group includes entrepreneurs, authors, politicians, a stand-up comedian, a photographer and a ballet dancer, among others. The second group will be announced in the coming weeks.

For almost a decade the 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. This year’s class, for the first time, includes leaders from the Balkans.

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 – particularly as we enter this uncertain new decade.

Learn more about the EYL40 programme here.

Photo of Fjoralba Caka
Fjoralba Caka

Albanian Deputy Minister of Justice and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Fjoralba is the Albanian minister covering European integration and anti-corruption policies. Having started her career as an academic teaching EU Law, she has maintained an ongoing cooperation with civil society organisations. She also served as a lawyer on issues related to strategic litigation and offered legal aid for people in need and for marginalised communities. In addition, she has led projects focusing on youth and national anti-corruption campaigns, including “Fighting Corruption in the Higher Education System” and “Bookworm Project – outdoors mini-library”.

Kamal Kharmach
Kamal Kharmach

Belgian stand-up comedian and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Kamal is one of the rising stars of the Belgian stand-up comedy scene, winner of several awards. He openly tackles sensitive and personal issues, such as obesity, discrimination and social injustice. Kamal was previously the Director of the Flemish-Moroccan culture house Daarkom. This cultural organisation seeks to bring about cultural exchange between diverse groups. Kamal is also a well-known TV host. An immigrant and stand-up comedian, he uses his platform to bring light to social abuses through a positive and humorous approach. His mix of television shows range from providing economic guidance for struggling companies, to blending comedy with politics.

Armin Cerkez
Armin Cerkez

Founder and CEO of Youth Power and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Armin founded Youth Power, an influential Bosnian NGO which pushes for non-violence, human rights and tolerance in the country. The inspirational work he did on Program Y led to the inclusion of gender-based violence prevention in school curricula. Coming from a region that has historically suffered from religious violence, Armin has championed the need for more inter-faith dialogue. He has also brought his message directly to citizens, providing lessons to prevent alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and violence in schools.

Jonathan Petrides
Jonathan Petrides

Co-Founder and CEO of AllPlants, and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Jonathan is an innovative Cypriot serial entrepreneur who is convinced that the best thing to do for the planet is to inspire far more people to eat plants. He launched a successful vegan ready meals business in 2016. From their kitchen in London they use bold flavours and hyper convenience to bring more plants onto plates across the UK. With chef-made plant-based food delivered nationwide, they are inspiring more people to eat healthily and in turn are helping the planet. Since launching the company, he has received a number of culinary awards for pushing the boundaries. Constantly striving to bring innovative people together and easing citizens’ lives, Jonathan previously launched a Kenyan mobile banking app and a network of rural health centres.

Lea Wermelin
Lea Wermelin

Danish Minister for the Environment and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Lea is the Danish Minister for the Environment in the Mette Frederiksen government. She describes herself as a ‘classic Social Democrat’ who strongly believes in equality and the power of community. As the daughter of a primary school teacher, she is passionate about the role of education as an instrument for social change. Lea became a passionate environmental advocate growing up in Bornholm, a community-tight Danish island with leading policies on circular economy, waste reduction and recycling. She has been involved in politics for the past decade, originally serving as a Board Member of the youth wing of the Social Democratic party. She has also worked in Tanzania on local democracy projects.

Karoli Hindriks
Karoli Hindriks

Founder and CEO of Jobbatical and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Karoli is an Estonian entrepreneur and creator of the forward-looking global mobility company Jobbatical. On a mission to make immigration more resourceful, Jobbatical is changing individuals’ lives and building high-performing teams by relocating exceptional people to impactful tech jobs around the world. Since founding her first company at the age of 16, officially making her the youngest inventor in her native Estonia, Karoli has been on a fast-track to setting up innovative initiatives. She is regularly counted amongst today’s most influential women, having received numerous awards and speaking at notable international events. Thanks to her influence, she also led the launch of seven television channels in Northern Europe, including National Geographic Channels and MTV.

Meeri Koutaniemi
Meeri Koutaniemi

Photographer, Documentary Film-maker, Cinematographer and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Meeri is an internationally renowned Finnish photographer and journalist, admired for her coverage of and portraits on human rights, minorities and empowerment. She garnered significant attention for her work on female genital mutilation in Kenya. This won her the Visa D’or Daily Press Award at France’s most prestigious photojournalism festival, Visa pour l’Image, and the Freelens Award at the Lumix Photo Festival in Hannover. She is also a seasoned documentary filmmaker, focusing her attention on disadvantaged groups such as the ‘Findian’ community in the US or transsexual Mayans in Mexico.

Chanyu Xu
Chanyu Xu

Founder and CEO of her1 and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Chanyu is a German serial entrepreneur, passionate foodie and start-up mentor from Berlin. In 2009 she co-founded her first successful ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) start-up Customer Alliance which is currently used by over 3,500 hotels in 35 countries. Chanyu has since co-founded several food-tech start-ups, including eating.de backed by star investor Peter Thiel and her1, which offers tips and products for a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Her latest start-up, ONO LABS, provides women with 100% natural nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.

Domna Michailidou
Domna Michailidou

Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Greece and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Domna is a Greek deputy minister and economist working on growth strategy, capital markets and public finance. She was previously reforms’ advisor to Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Leader of New Democracy and Greek Prime Minister. Domna has advised several governmental and non-governmental institutions including the UN Development Programme, the British Council and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). She has also worked for the OECD in Paris and Athens as an economist and competition expert. In addition to her governmental work, Domna teaches economics courses at Cambridge and University College London and has written a number of publications and books.

Darya Yegorina
Darya Yegorina

Founder and CEO of CleverBooks and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Darya is an Irish entrepreneur and influential global pioneer of the role that ‘augmented reality’ (AR) can play in education. She recently created CleverBooks to provide personalised educational content for students by utilising three-dimensional AR technologies. Darya has been widely recognised for her work, having won the Digital Female Leaders Award in Entrepreneurship as well as being named an Innovator by the Irish Times and a Young Irish Entrepreneur. She has been featured in Inc.com, Forbes, CBS and many other global media platforms for her efforts to bridge the technology gap in classrooms around the world and boost student outcomes.

Paolo Giordano
Paolo Giordano

Bestselling author, theoretical physicist and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Paolo is an award-winning Italian writer and theoretical physicist. His first novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, is a critically acclaimed worldwide bestseller, selling over a million copies and being translated into thirty languages. It also received an equally successful cinematic adaptation. Paolo also wrote the critically acclaimed The Human Body and Like Family. He has been widely recognised for his work and was the youngest winner ever of Italy’s most prestigious literary award, the Strega Prize, as well as the Premio Campiello, a highly competitive annual prize.

Wietse van der Werf
Wietse van der Werf

CEO of Sea Ranger Service and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Wietse is an award-winning Dutch social entrepreneur and conservationist, pioneering regenerative blue economy ventures. Wietse has received wide recognition for his innovative approach to mobilising businesses, governments and citizens to form uncommon partnerships for the social, economic and ecological regeneration of European coastal and ocean areas. His current venture, the Sea Ranger Service, trains unemployed young people from port cities with the help of navy veterans to manage Marine Protected Areas in European seas. A new type of professional sailing vessel has been developed for the Sea Rangers, with cost-effective sea operation and zero emissions.

Qëndron Kastrati
Qëndron Kastrati

Mayor of Kamenica, Kosovo and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Qëndron is the youngest mayor in Kosovo, having been elected to lead the town of Kamenica at only 29. He is known for his progressive approach, having a predominantly female cabinet. As mayor, he has been resolute in his mission to make his town a genuinely multi-ethnic community and to bridge existing ethnic divides. He reformed the local education system and created a joint multi-ethnic school for Albanians, Serbs and Roma children. He has also walked the talk by installing translation booths in the municipal assembly, so Serbs can participate fully in meetings.

Monica Semedo
Monica Semedo

Member of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Monica is a Luxembourgish TV presenter and politician, and was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019. Having worked as a journalist and TV presenter for over two decades, Monica is well-known amongst Luxembourg’s public. Having won a seat in the European Parliament for Luxembourg’s Democratic Party and serving as a full member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Monica has expressed her intent to prioritise equal opportunities for children and young people in particular as well as an equal platform for entrepreneurs. Monica has been actively engaged in charity work, including for cancer research and as a former ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages and Fairtrade.

Marcelino Sambe
Marcelino Sambé

Principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Marcelino, from Portugal, is a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London. Born in the outskirts of Lisbon, Marcelino discovered from an early age a talent and passion for dance, and was accepted to the National Conservatory of Lisbon, before joining The Royal Ballet Upper School. He rapidly made a name for himself in the ballet world, garnering rave reviews from critics for his portrayals in Don Quixote and Les Patineurs. Sambé’s dance awards include a silver medal at the Moscow International ballet competition, first prize at the Youth American Grand Prix and a gold medal at the USA International ballet competition.

Alexander Betts
Alexander Betts

Professor of Forced Migration and Associate Head of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Alexander is an award-winning British academic, whose research focuses mainly on the politics and economics of refugee assistance, with a focus on Africa. In addition to his academic work, Alexander leads the IKEA Foundation-funded Refugee Economies Programme. Previously, Alexander served as Director of the Refugee Studies Centre and co-authored Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System, which the Economist labelled as one of the Best Books of 2017. Alexander was also named a ‘top 100 global thinker’ by Foreign Policy. His TED talks have been viewed by over three million people.

Vlad Voiculescu
Vlad Voiculescu

Politician, economist and patient advocate and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Vlad is a Romanian politician, health policy expert and patient advocate. After pursuing a career in finance, Vlad became active in public service, serving as the Romanian Finance Minister’s Chief of Staff and then as Minister of Health in the Dacian Cioloș government. Since 2008, Vlad has been involved in patient advocacy, both at the national and European level. He is the founder of an international network of volunteers that helped over 2,500 cancer patients receive essential medicines that were missing in Romania, a story that featured in the HBO documentary The Network’. Vlad is also the Co-Founder of MagiCAMP, which seeks to provide support to children diagnosed with cancer and other serious illnesses. For this work, the European Parliament awarded Vlad its ‘European Citizen’s Prize.’

Johannes Schildt
Johannes Schildt

Co-Founder and CEO of KRY/LIVI and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Johannes is a Swedish serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of KRY, which he plans to develop into the world’s leading healthcare provider by combining medical expertise with state-of-the-art technology. Currently available in Sweden, Norway, France and the UK, the business has pioneered the digital healthcare model by enabling people to see a medical doctor or a psychologist via remote video connection, thereby replacing the need for in-person consultations. To date, the app has delivered over 1.1mn appointments and is set to launch in more markets this year. Long part of Europe’s start-up scene, Johannes is also the founder of a number of other initiatives including Tieday Group and Wowallets.

Matthew Caruana Galizia
Matthew Caruana Galizia

Journalist and Lead Engineer for the Paradise Papers Investigation and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Show more information on Matthew Caruana Galizia

Matthew is a renowned Maltese journalist and software engineer with a distinguished career that spans over a decade. Having previously worked for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), he co-founded the organisation’s Data & Research Unit in 2014 and was a lead engineer on six major investigations, namely Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Luxembourg Leaks, Fatal Extraction, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. The Unit’s core work on the Panama Papers notably won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2017. He left the organisation in 2018 to continue working on the case around the assassination of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Photo of Samir Abdelkrim
Samir Abdelkrim

Founder of EMERGING Valley, Author, Entrepreneur and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Samir is not only a French entrepreneur but also an author and a tech reporter. Passionate about all things digital, he founded EMERGING Valley as an international summit on African innovation to connect tech start-ups with investors, thinkers and decision-makers across continents. He also leads StartupBRICS, a company that provides insights on entrepreneurship in emerging economies. Samir is a former chronicler on African tech entrepreneurs for Le Monde and has also featured in the Huffington Post, Le Point and Les Echos. His book, Startup Lions, chronicles his experience travelling the African continent in search of the most interesting and innovative tech start-ups. With French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative “Summit of the Two Shores of the Mediterranean”, Samir was amongst 10 selected to make proposals to relaunch European and Mediterranean cooperation.

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