European Young Leaders


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 and initiatives.

The programme is supported by renowned and solid foundations such as the Fondazione Cariplo and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.

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.

Meet the European Young Leaders
Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk
Social activist

Agnieszka is among Poland’s most recognised social activists and a strong advocate of women’s rights. In 2015, she was instrumental in leading demonstrations that became known as ‘Black Monday’, in which Polish women protested against anti-abortion laws. Days after Black Monday, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the proposal and the Minister of Science and Higher Education Jaroslaw Gowin said the protests “caused us to think and taught us humility.” Agnieszka is a board member of the leftist Razem party and, in 2016, was listed as one of top 100 most influential Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Journal.

United Kingdom
Colum Eastwood
Leader, Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP)

Colum has been at the heart of the post-conflict success story in Derry, the second-largest city in Northern Ireland. He was only 27 years old when he was elected as the city’s mayor in 2010. In this position, he championed Derry as a city of culture and transformed its image. Throughout the years, Colum continuously stood against dissident republican violence and steadfastly called for an end to terrorist activities by armed groups. Following his election to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011, Colum was appointed as the SDLP representative on the committee overseeing the work of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. He currently sits on the Committee for Communities, which plays a key role in debating and developing legislation.

Othman El Ferdaous
Secretary of State for Investment Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade & Digital Economy, MENA Delegate

Othman El Ferdaous is a public affairs and strategic communication professional, listed among the 50 most influential Moroccans under 40 by Telquel Magazine in 2016. He is a strong advocate for EU-Maghreb integration and founded, a non-profit organization aiming to provide a "South-North" perspective on European affairs, especially policy and institutions matters regarding the Mediterranean and Africa. He is also a board member of Sciences Po Alumni Morocco, focused on fostering reverse brain drain by mentoring Moroccan students. He releases a monthly newsletter covering Moroccan issues read by +7000 subscribers.

Nassira El Moaddem

Nassira is a French journalist and one of the few female editors-in-chief of a French national media outlet. She began her career as a TV reporter and news anchor at Itele/Canal+ before joining France 2 where she worked as a reporter for the evening TV news. In 2016, she took the helm of the Bondy Blog, a news website that gives voices to the voiceless. In her work, Nassira puts the emphasis on local investigations, especially of marginalised people living on the outskirts of cities, particularly around Paris. 

Ignacio Escolar
Founder & Director El Diario

Ignacio is a journalist, political analyst and Founder and Director of, an online media political analysis site. Previously Ignacio founded and managed the well-known newspaper Publico. He also manages, the most popular and widely read political blog in Spain, which was named best political and journalist blog of the year in 2008 and 2009. Ignacio is also the founder of Bitban, a technology and design consulting company for Internet media communication, working with clients all over the world. In 2009 he was awarded the José Manuel Porquet Journalism Prize, the Mujeres Progresistas Prize for declining to publish prostitution ads in Publico and the Nicolas Salmeron for Human Rights Prize.

Aaron Farrugia
Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue

Aaron was elected to the Maltese Parliament in June of 2017, and appointed Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue within the Ministry for European Affairs. Before his current position, Aaron ran the Malta Freeport, the first transhipment hub in the Mediterranean. He served as president of the Labour Youth Forum and was elected deputy mayor of Ta’ Xbiex in 2005. During the international financial crisis, he was appointed to a team of economic experts set up by the Young European Socialists and was elected as Education Secretary in the Maltese Labour Party’s Central Administration. Aaron also chaired the progressive think tank IDEAT, the party’s political foundation. In 2014, he founded the Anton Buttigieg Foundation, which seeks to promote social awareness in Malta, focusing on education as the primary tool for economic and social development.

Alexandre Farto
Street Artist

Alexandre, known under the tag name ‘Vhils’, is a Portuguese street artist, best known for his urban murals, his use of urban settings – walls, doors, debris – as ‘canvasses’ or materials for his art, as well as the destructive processes by which he constructs art. Alexandre studied in London, and gained prominence when his work was showcased at the Cans Festival in London. As well as technically and visually innovative, Alexandre’s art has a social function as it attempts to cast a spotlight on situations of social injustice, and to create a dialogue around these. His work has since continued to gain recognition, with his work appearing in cities worldwide and he has been featured alongside street artists of the likes of Banksy.

Jorge Juan Fernandez Garcia
Director of Innovation, EIT Health

As EIT Health’s Director of Innovation, Jorge plays a vital role in shaping the wide range of innovation projects developed and supported by the organisation. Previously, Jorge was Director of E-Health within the Innovation Department at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona – a key example of a European healthcare provider using online care, telemedicine, mobile apps and health 2.0 tools to put the patient at the centre of care – and Director of Moebio, which develops healthcare entrepreneurs and future leaders. Jorge has more than 18 years of experience, with the last eight years fully dedicated to innovation, technology and entrepreneurship at the intersection of business, government, and academia. He regularly acts as advisor and mentor to healthcare start-ups and entrepreneurial acceleration programs, helping to create a stronger ecosystem in the biomedical and healthcare industries. 

Mary Fitzgerald
Libya Analyst, Award-Winning Journalist and European Young Leader

Mary is a journalist and analyst specialising in the Euro-Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya. She has worked on Libya since 2011 and lived there throughout 2014. Her work has appeared in publications including the Economist, Foreign Policy, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and the Guardian. She has conducted research on Libya for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMED) among others. She is a contributing author to an edited volume on the Libyan revolution published by Oxford University Press. In her previous role as Irish Times foreign affairs correspondent, she reported from 40 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. She is a member of the Global Women's Forum 'Rising Talents' network.

Christina Fonseca
Co-Founder of Talkdesk

Cristina is a software engineer and tech entrepreneur, who co-founded one of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing companies, Talkdesk, a platform that allows anyone to quickly create a call centre online. Previously, Cristina has worked as a researcher at INESC-ID, a Portuguese non-profit institution conducting advanced research in electronics, energy, telecommunications and information technologies. Cristina is passionate about Artificial Intelligence and the impact of technology, and advises early-stage start-ups.

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Selection process

The selection process for the Class of 2018 is closed and we are now in the process of announcing those who have been selected. 
To find out more about the first 20 candidates to be announced as part of the Class of 2018, please click here.

Keep an eye on our website and social media for all updates regarding the programme and news from our Young Leaders!

The next selection process for candidates will open in early 2018.