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.
The European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme, organised by Friends of Europe, is a unique, inventive and multi-stakeholder programme that aims to promote a European identity by engaging the continent’s most promising talents in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future.
The European Young Leaders represent promising European leadership from all over the continent, with a wide variety of backgrounds including politics, business, civil society, academia, arts, science and the media.
Every year, they meet for two three-day seminars in symbolic European cities, joined by decision-makers, stakeholders and key European actors to discuss issues of common concern and develop concrete proposals and recommendations to tackle the challenges facing Europe and its citizens.
The European Young Leaders now represent a network of more than 180 alumni.
The programme was initially conceived with EuropaNova, a Paris-based think-tank.
Mehdi is an award-winning journalist and political commentator. He is the presenter of ‘The Café’, ‘Head to Head’ and ‘UpFront’ on Al Jazeera English. He was previously political director at Huffington Post UK. Mehdi was named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter and was included in the annual global list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. In 2013, his debate-winning speech in an Oxford Union debate on Islam and peace went viral online, winning more than two million views. He is also the author of two books: a biography of former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and an eBook on debt and the financial crisis.
Michal started programming when he was just seven years old and developed his own operating system by the time he was 20. In 2004, he co-founded Sygic, a mobile navigation company focused on business and holiday travellers. It now has more than 20 million active users worldwide. The company became the first to offer navigation for iPhone and the second for Android. In 2015, Sygic reached the milestone of 100 million downloads of its navigation app. It ranks second in the App Annie Index Travel & Local category, just after Google. Sygic’s automotive team cooperates with companies such as Honda, Jaguar and Land Rover to bring the latest connected driving innovation to cars.
A lawyer by training, Muna is passionate about politics. During her studies, she was the international secretary of Socialist Youth Austria and worked for the French Socialist Party. After graduation, she became a local councillor in the Vienna-Donaustadt district at the age of 23. In 2010, she joined the Austrian Federal Council where she became the Social Democrat spokesperson on foreign policy. Six years later, she was nominated as Secretary of State in the Office of the Federal Chancellery. Muna is also the President of the Palestinian-Austrian Society, a group that aims to deepen exchanges between Austrians and Palestinians and play an active part in Austrian society by promoting anti-racist, democratic and transnational programmes.
Myriam is an academic, broadcaster and writer specialising in issues related to Islam and the Middle East. She is a regular contributor to the Middle East Eye, the New Statesman and the Telegraph. In 2014, she broke a headline story on an exclusive 36-page document written by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al-Qaeda militant behind the 9/11 attacks. Since then, she presented two BBC documentaries, ‘The Muslim Pound’ (2016) and ‘A Deadly Warning: Srebrenica Revisited’ (2015) nominated for the Sandford St Martin religious programming award. Myriam is also a Research Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies at SOAS University, where she focuses on British-Muslim integration issues. She recently completed her doctorate at Oxford University on the subject of Islamic political movements in Morocco.
Neža is a human rights advocate working at a national and international level. Since 2012, she has been the Director of the Peace Institute, a non-profit research body that aims to create and preserve an open society capable of critical thought and based on the principles of equality, human rights, responsibility, solidarity and the rule of law. Her work at the institute includes lecturing, legal analysis, project management and research. Neža is a member of several legal expert networks advocating for anti-discrimination, social inclusion and the promotion of better representation of immigrants. She was voted as one of the ten most influential lawyers in Slovenia in 2016.
Owen is an author, commentator and political activist. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian, having previously written for the Independent. He has made several television appearances on the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News as well as on ITV’s Daybreak and BBC One’s ‘Question Time’. His work also appeared in several publications, including the Sunday Mirror and Le Monde diplomatique. In 2011, Owen published his first book, ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’, which received favourable critical reviews, including from the New York Times. He was named one of the top 50 Britons of the year by the Independent on Sunday in 2011 and was awarded the Young Writer of the Year prize at the Political Book Award in 2013.
Ozan is an economist and politician born in Turkey. He is a specialist in labour economics with a focus on issues relating to unemployment and wage differences. He has worked at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and conducted research at both the Labour Institute for Economic Research and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the Helsinki Greens in 2014 and became Co-Chair of the Federation of Green Youth and Students in 2015. At the age of 29, he was elected as a Green League Member of the Finnish Parliament. As an MP, he campaigns for social equality and spearheads the fight against discrimination.
Sébastien is a young businessman and entrepreneur. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Terminal du Grand Ouest (TGO), a port operations company in the Nantes-Saint Nazaire port area that covers bulk, container and general cargo activities. He manages a team of more than 150 employees at TGO. Sébastien was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special representative on the economy and business during his campaign to win the Republican nomination for the 2017 presidential election. Sébastien is regional councillor in the Pays de la Loire region and will be an official candidate of the Republicans party in the upcoming 2017 legislative elections. He is also the co-founder of Sens Commun, a right-wing youth movement that defends conservative family values.
Silvia is a young economist and entrepreneur specialising in game theory and interest groups. She has extensive experience as a strategist in auction design. In 2008, she co-founded Auctionomics, a high-stakes auction consulting and software firm with clients ranging from governments to Fortune 500 companies. Silvia has acted as project manager on several high-stakes auctions in Australia, Canada, and the United States, in many European countries, and in Africa and Latin America. She is also the co-founder of xSwan, an interactive version of eBay that allows charities to raise more money via online auctions. Silvia frequently speaks at major universities both in the United States (including Berkeley and Harvard) and around the world.
Virginia is the first woman to become mayor of Rome after winning the 2016 municipal election with two-thirds of the vote. She is considered as a rising star of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), a party that she joined in 2011, two years before being elected to Rome’s city council. Called a talented debated by the Economist, Virginia vowed to end corruption, introduce a new level of transparency to the Roman government and revamp the city’s failing infrastructure. Virginia fiercely campaigned against the proposed amendment to the Italian constitution in the run-up to the 2016 constitutional referendum. A lawyer by training, she specialises in intellectual property and new technology.