24 September 2015 - 13:00 - 27 September 2015 - 02:00

Europeans need to start thinking together again if the European Union is going to thrive – or even survive – over the next half century, former Prime Minister of Ireland John Bruton said.

Bruton was speaking at the Friends of Europe conference of European Young Leaders in Dublin, which gathered people under 40 from science, media, technology and other fields. He pointed to four major problems for Europe today: aging populations; a reliance on mature technologies; the continent's reduced relative size in world; and risk aversion.

“The European Union is a habit of thought,” said Bruton, who is also a Trustee of Friends of Europe. “The institutions are only the instruments for our habit of thinking like a European, and the habit of mind that could easily be lost. The EU will not be here in 40 years unless there is a European patriotism.”

Another threat is the possibility of the UK leaving the EU after a referendum. “If every country started to do this the EU would not last more than another two years,” he said

See the fourth group of the European Young Leaders.

The prestigious 2015-2016 programme that was initially launched in 2011, brings together the continent’s most promising talents to contribute to Europe’s leadership through their ability to bring together and inspire people. Each year, a group of some 40 carefully selected European Young Leaders participate in two seminars organised in symbolic cities of EU member countries where they meet and discuss the current challenges the EU faces today, both for society as a whole, as well as for its citizens.

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12.30 - 13.45 Ice-breaking welcome lunch

13.45 - 14.00 Welcome by Geert Cami, Co-Founder & Director at Friends of Europe

Introductory remarks by John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister & Trustee of Friends of Europe

14.00 - 16.00 CREATIVE EUROPE

Europe is famously diverse, with its different national heritages and cultures constituting a rich mix of creative juices. Is the European Union being sufficiently used to develop new cultural activities that would help to bind the peoples of Europe closer together while highlighting European creativity on the global stage? Where EU countries have been less successful is in the harnessing of the internet to new services and social networks. If Europe's technological strengths could be linked more closely with the arts and popular culture might America's pre-eminence in this age of global communication be challenged?

Introductory remarks by Paul Young / Chief Executive Officer of Cartoon Saloon

European Young Leader contribution by Andi Wecker / Producer at Network Movie

Moderated by Malcolm Byrne / Head of Communications at the Irish Higher Education Authority & 2014 European Young Leader

Dublin hosts the European headquarters to many global high-tech giants, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, EBay and LinkedIn and is also home to a growing number of indigenous startups. This session explores how Europe can shape and be shaped by the information technology revolution, both in education systems, in work environments and in citizens’ everyday life.

Introductory remarks by Dara Murphy / Irish Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection

European Young Leader contribution by Xenios Thrasyvoulou / Founder & CEO of

Moderated by Wouter Verschelden / Founder and Publisher at NewsMonkey & 2014 European Young Leader

16.00 - 16.30 Coffee break

Ongoing conflict east and south of Europe increasingly threatens the continent's security. The rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and most recently its expansion to Libya, presents new risks. Thousands of European citizens, many of them very young, have either travelled to these countries to join ISIS or have been inspired by its ideology at home. How to tackle this phenomenon and the long term threat it poses to European security? With the battle against ISIS as much of an ideological battle as a military one, what should European governments be doing?

Introductory remarks by Housam Najjair / Author of the book ‘Soldier for a Summer’

European Young Leader contribution by Hanke Bruins Slot / Member of the Dutch Parliament and former military officer

Moderated by Mary Fitzgerald / Libya analyst, Irish Independent foreign affairs correspondent & 2014 European Young Leader

18.00 Transfer to the City Hall

18.30 – 20.00 Reception at the City Hall with remarks by Cllr Dermot Lacey, Member of the Dublin City Council and leader of the Labour Group on Council

20.00 – Onwards Dinner at The Woollen Mills Restaurant & Dublin by night

18.00 - 20.30 Reception at the City Hall

20.30 - Onwards Dublin by night



With UN climate negotiations in their final leg, all eyes are on Paris, where global leaders are meeting later this year to seal a new, ambitious and legally binding climate deal. While the European Union is a success story when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the key question is whether it can maintain its climate leadership on the international stage and encourage other countries to take on comparable and ambitious climate commitments.

Introductory remarks by

Johannes Meier / Chief Executive Officer of the European Climate Foundation

Paul Watkinson / Head of the Climate Negotiation Team at the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy

European Young Leader contribution by Jane Burston / Head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement at the National Physical Laboratory

Moderated by Cédric Denis-Remis / French Dean, ParisTech Shanghai JiaoTong and Vice President of EuropaNova

11.00 - 11.30 Coffee break

The heart-rending dramas of refugees displaced by conflict in the Middle East and by poverty in Africa are striking chords of sympathy and concern among public opinion across the EU. Whether it's the plight of boatloads of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean or the spectacle of huge refugee camps, it seems clear that Europeans feel their governments should be doing more. But often those same Europeans vote to resist immigration and a more multi-cultural society. With perhaps 100m immigrants needed by 2050 to compensate for Europe's ageing, what solutions should we consider?

Introductory remarks by Kensika Monshengwo / Former Director of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism

European Young Leader contribution by Klen Jäärats / Director for EU Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister, Estonia

Moderated by Mary Fitzgerald / Libya analyst, Irish Independent foreign affairs correspondent & 2014 European Young Leader

13.00 - 14.00 Lunch


The EU's member governments jealously guard their sovereign fiscal powers, and see tax matters as a vital part of their national political systems. But frictions over fiscal inducements to attract foreign investors and their corporate headquarters have of late shone unwelcome spotlights on countries as different as Luxembourg and Ireland. At the same time, EU-level policymakers have long pointed to the advantages of more coherent and even common tax arrangements. With taxation a crucially important element to combat social inequality, what fiscal arrangements should Europeans be pursuing?

Introductory remarks by David McWilliams / Economist, Broadcaster and Bestselling Author

European Young Leader contribution by Clémentine Forissier / Associate and Co-Founder of Contexte, France

Moderated by Sony Kapoor / Managing Director of Re-Define & 2014 European Young Leader

Opinion in continental Europe seems to divide neatly between those who believe the UK's departure could deal a mortal blow to the EU's future, and those who are tired of British euroscepticism and say "good riddance". But what of near neighbours like Ireland whose social and economic links are still so close? Would the wider benefits of EU membership, coupled perhaps with partnership with an independent Scotland that opts to stay in Europe, compensate for a British exit?

Introductory remarks by Lucinda Creighton / Member of the Irish Parliament, Leader of Renua Ireland and former Irish Minister for European Affairs

European Young Leader contribution by Sander Loones / Member of the European Parliament

Moderated by Malcolm Byrne / Head of Communications at the Irish Higher Education Authority & 2014 European Young Leader

15.30 – 16.00 Coffee break and transfer to the Trinity College Library

16.30 – 17.30 Visit of the book of Kells at the Trinity College Library

17.30 – 18.30 Free time

18.30 – Meeting in the lobby of the Trinity City Hotel & transfer to the Guinness Storehouse

19.00 – Onwards Visit of the Guinness Storehouse & dinner



Greece’s debt crisis has broadcast to the world that Europe’s vaunted unity is at risk. The financial and economic crisis that engulfed Europe from 2008 onwards acted as a catalyst to reveal the vulnerabilities and fault lines in the EU’s national economies. The result has been a widening of the North-South gap separating the ‘Club Med’ countries bordering the Mediterranean from those of northern Europe. And it has highlighted the differences between the EU’s ‘core’ and its ‘periphery’. What sort of policies are needed – with or without treaty change – to bind the EU’s member states together again?

Introductory remarks by Noelle O’Connell / Executive Director of the European Movement Ireland

European Young Leader contribution by Giovanna Pancheri / Brussels Correspondent at Sky TG 24 and Michal Olszewski / Deputy Mayor of Warsaw

Moderated by Sony Kapoor / Managing Director of Re-Define & 2014 European Young Leader

The contrast between EU countries’ achievements in pure science and the educational shortcomings that have bred the ICT skills gap is inescapable. Europe’s scientists have won over half of all the Nobel prizes awarded since 1901, but that’s no guarantee for the future. Surveys of EU business leaders now find a majority fearing China will overtake Europe in technological innovation by the early 2020s. What’s to be done? Nobody doubts that R&D is key to productivity and our global competitiveness, so where is the drive to restore Europe’s lead? The European Commission provoked a storm of criticism earlier this year, not least from several hundred Nobel laureates, over its plans to switch almost €3bn from the EU’s research budget to its new infrastructure programme, and in any case R&D spending in Europe averaging less than 2% of GDPs is far below the U.S. and Asia. What sort of policy initiatives would seize public imagination and reverse the decline? And how could they be linked with the revolution in schools education that’s needed to produce the high-tech workforce of the future?

Introductory remarks by Dan O’Brien / Chief Economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA)

European Young Leader contribution by Sandro Mendonça / Professor at the Lisbon University Institute

Moderated by Dimitris Tsigos / Founder and CEO of StartTech Ventures & 2013 European Young Leader

11.30 - 12.00 Coffee break

Europhiles often complain about the systematically negative reporting on Europe in the media. The EU's institutions, and the European Commission particularly, have long been criticised for failing to come up with a new narrative that can transform its myriad activities into a stirring clarion call that rallies popular support.

The EU's origins and its competences of course militate against that sort of re-branding exercise - its powers and responsibilities are technocratic, and the sexier stuff of political drama is kept firmly in the hands of the nation states and their electorates.

But are there nevertheless ways in which the EU could present 'Europe' in a broader canvas that would underline the value of unity and engender pride in the simple phrase "I'm a European"? How can younger generations be encouraged to see the added value of the European project, and what, if anything, should be done about European citizenship in education systems?

With Tommy Tiernan / Irish comedian, actor and writer

Moderated by Malcolm Byrne / Head of Communications at the Irish Higher Education Authority & 2014 European Young Leader

13.00 - 14.00 Lunch

14.00 - Onwards Transfer to the hotel & free time
What do a microbiologist, an entrepreneur, a journalist and a Member of Parliament have in common? They are all European Young Leaders who are engaged in making Europe a global champion for a better world.

Brexit looms large on the EU's agenda, and with the tide of populism narrowly missing many member states there is a need to update and reform the Brussels institutions and make sure that they work for European citizens.

Françoise Soudaz, Project Executive
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 22
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Event starts
24 September