Postcard from Dublin


Dublin was the setting of the autumn European Young Leaders (EYL40) seminar. Forty trendsetters from 27 countries gathered to brainstorm on challenges facing the continent, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, to climate change and the disenchantment pushing voters, to populist extremes.

Debates highlighted the EYL40 programme’s unique blend of experience and skills, drawing in outstanding young talents from technology, politics, academia, journalism, human rights, business, health, education, environment protection, science, defence, culture, fashion and sport.


Opening-day work sessions were dominated by the war in Ukraine. In a public debate joined by local citizens, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and 2023 EYL40, explained how her country’s resistance to Russia’s invasion has become the frontline of a global struggle.

“This is not just a war between two states, this is a war between two systems, between authoritarianism and democracy,” she said. “This war has no borders … This war is here. Putin declared war on the values which are the European homeland.” Europe and the democratic world must unite to defeat that threat, she added.


Highlighting the impact of those values, speakers saluted how 50 years of EU membership has underpinned progress in the host country. “Ireland has been utterly transformed by EU membership,” said Shona Murray, European Affairs Correspondent for Euronews and “Being part of a progressive liberal union, a social union, really helped.”

A survey held among attendees at the public session at Dublin City University (DCU) showed widespread support for the EU and trust in European policymakers outstripping that for national or local government.

“The EU is probably the best thing that could happen to me because it gave me so many opportunities,” said a young woman from Slovakia. “It’s the best opportunity that I could be given.” However, another participant from eastern Europe complained that the sense of energy and enthusiasm felt when her country joined is missing in today’s EU debate.

The widespread support for nationalist, euro-bashing parties ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections indicate an urgent need to rekindle that enthusiasm for the integration project and overcome disillusion with mainstream politics.

To that end, Friends of Europe is promoting a Renewed Social Contract by 2030 to redefine relations between government, business, civil society and the public and ensure that Europe can maintain a positive place in the world and provide adequate responses to challenges facing its citizens.

Ideas emerging from EYL40 debates will be drafted into social contract policy choices to be refined at November’s State of Europe roundtable in Brussels and disseminated ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.


Among those ideas is the importance of expanding corporate social responsibility so business can be held to account and play a more constructive social role.

That idea was taken up by Mark MacGann, Founder of Moonshot Ventures and the whistleblower behind the Uber Files investigation into lobbying and corporate practices.

“There has to be a category of citizens within companies. The tech sector is perhaps a good laboratory for that, where people are encouraged to come forward,” he said, calling for civil society representatives supporting media plurality and corporate transparency to be brought into a new social architecture holding companies to account.

“There is a whole structure out there,” MacGann added. “It is another entity that should be in the room when you talk about a renewed social contract.”

Similarly, Dragoș Tudorache, Chair of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA), briefed the young leaders on the Parliament’s impending legislation to ensure responsible applications of artificial intelligence.

“There needs to be a duty of care in how applications of AI in the healthcare are being designed and that’s what the act is doing,” he told the group via videolink from Brussels. “We are leading globally on what is being done on AI, and the standards that we are going to insert in this sector will become the global standard.”


The Renewed Social Contract could underpin a vision of a revitalised Europe able to play a constructive role internationally, protect the planet and respond to the concerns of anxious citizens.

Over dinner in Dublin Castle, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, Chair of The Elders and Honorary Co-President of the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF), outlined her vision of possible better times ahead, with countries powered by clean energy, development easing hardship in Africa and women playing a greater role at all levels of society.

“I have to think that our best times are ahead of us, difficult as it may be in the slightly complicated reality that we’re in,” Robinson concluded.

The European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme represents an alternative leadership for an inspiring Europe. Stay tuned for the release of the autumn seminar’s full event report. In the meantime, read more about the seminar here and browse EYL40 updates on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

The EYL40 programme is supported by the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Fondazione Cariplo, the United States European Command (EUCOM) and Coca-Cola in Europe, and co-funded by the European Union.

The Dublin seminar was also kindly supported by the Dublin City University (DCU) Brexit Institute, the European Space Agency (ESA), Bristol Myers Squibb, Fáilte Ireland (Meet in Ireland), An Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha (the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs) and the University College London (UCL) Climate Action Unit.

Track title


Stop playback
Video title


Africa initiative logo