14 March 2019 - 12:30 - 16 March 2019 - 15:00

The first meeting of the EYL class of 2019 will take place during one of the most crucial and defining years for the European project thus far. The United Kingdom plans to leave the European Union only two weeks after this seminar is held. that will -symbolically- take place in London. The way Europe deals with that loss in the following months and years to come will be essential for its endurance. On the ubiquitous question ‘Does Europe Matter?’ the European population will voice their opinion during the European elections only eight weeks after the young leaders meet for the first time. 

Against this backdrop, the seminar will be given added gravity as we examine our understanding of the European project and assess its strengths and weaknesses as well as our expectations for the future of the Union. However, this much needed debate is in danger of revolving around a narrow dichotomy: pro-Europeans versus Eurosceptics.  

In an era in which we are facing global issues that demand quick and effective collective action, such as climate change, migration and growing inequalities, politicians appear to be distracted and paralysed by polarisation. The once omnipresent trust in the rational and stable middle ground of deliberative party politics is disappearing, with people instead opting for strong emotions, populistic rhetoric and big personalities. 

In a fast-paced world, which is the perfect breeding ground for insecurity and anxiety, one would think people would crave stability, maturity and dignity in global affairs and public policies. Instead, antagonistic narratives seem to be the only way of conceiving the vote. The political debate has been highjacked by alt-, hard- and far right movements that instigate high-tension debates, in which more moderate voices are losing power and influence. This results in hostile debates between groups in societies, as recently shown in France with the Gilets Jaunes, where raw emotion and occasional violence are no exception. 

What is the glue binding Europe together for the future?  How can we convince people of a common purpose, enabling them to be better connected in their needs and concerns? How can we convince people of the notion of a common good? How do we make sure that people ignore what needs to be ignored and keep their eye on the (common) price?

The London seminar is the first of a series of meetings which form the foundation of the 2019 edition of the European Young Leaders’ programme, and its themes have been chosen to reflect the core work of Friends of Europe for this year and into the future. Many of the ideas generated in this seminar will feed into the 2019 workstream of our Europe Matters programme and provide the basis for a series of wider follow-up debates via our online platform Debating Europe and its 3.5 million strong community of citizens.

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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.
Day 1

14 March

Welcome buffet lunch

A moment to welcome the 2019 class of European Young Leaders to their first seminar and an opportunity for them to meet with their peers from the EYL40 community.


Word of welcome and introduction to the seminar

Geert Cami, Co-Founder and Secretary General of Friends of Europe



Meeting the new class and alumni

This session will provide the participants the chance to get to know each other, and will help to introduce themselves to the other participants.



Lessons to be learned for the upcoming elections

It can be argued that Brexit has been one of many visible  symptoms of current resentments towards the EU. It was rather easy for Brexiteers to convince the majority of the UK that  EU influence and British life were incompatible, while simultaneously claiming that letting go of the ‘bureaucracy in Brussels’ would have no effect on their lives at all. 
The political and economic uncertainty that accompanied the subsequent Brexit negotiations has proved that ties aren’t easily broken. Increasing numbers of British citizens are realising that they have much to lose when they exit the EU, including their rights to freedom of movement, non-discrimination and political participation within the EU. It is a text book case of not knowing what you have ‘til it’s almost gone. 
On the continent, Brexit has pushed many EU proponents in member states to reaffirm their commitment to the European project. Yet, Europeans would be remiss should they think their Union is any less capable of electing a Trump of their own or experiencing another Brexit. The upcoming European parliamentary elections offers a golden opportunity for populist leaders such as Salvini and Orbán to stage protest votes aimed at tearing the heart out of the EU.
How can we turn this momentum into a historic turning point that revitalises support for European values? How can we make sure that we learn our lesson from Brexit? How do we successfully communicate these learnings and ambitions to voters?

Hilary Benn, Member of Parliament for Labour and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee
Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist


Coffee break



The need for collective action in a time of antagonistic politics

The realities of climate change are becoming more and more visible: rising temperatures, declining Arctic sea ice, extreme weather events, heatwaves wildfires, floods, droughts, increased storms and hurricanes and so on. Biodiversity is declining at a rate of more than 100 species per million every year and is due to accelerate as rising sea levels have already submerged five islands in the South Pacific. There is a widespread scientific consensus that climate change is caused by humankind and its greenhouse gas emissions. 

Experts say that we can still reverse global warming before 2050, but it will require the world to adopt solutions at an aggressive rate. Global collective action is key but, so far, the world has failed to transcend short-term national interests for the greater global good. Even though climate change mitigation is a common interest, politicians fail to address it in such a manner, instead framing the issue in free market terms. 

The Gilets Jaunes in France proved that climate change policies run the risk of being put in the same corner as traditional political divisions, such as urban vs. rural, blue vs. white collar, paralysing urgently needed decision-making. How can we assure that this peril is portrayed as a collective problem rather than a partisan one? How do we push the polarised political debate towards consensus on this topic?

Claire Perry, UK Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 
Edward Gardiner, Behavioural Scientist and Behavioural Design Lead at Warwick Business School where he focuses on ways to support collective action; helping people work more effectively together to achieve their own and common goals

Day 2

15 March
09.45 - 11.00


Discussing social innovation in Europe

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of NESTA, fomer head of policy in the Prime Minister's office under Tony Blair and Director of the Government’s Strategy Unit. Having lectured in over 30 countries, Geoff Mulgan is ranked as one of UK’s leading public intellectuals. 

During this conversation he will reflect on the current trends in social innovation, Europe’s current role on the global stage and whether or not Europe will continue to play a leading role in the future.


Coffee break



Space exploration and the economy behind it

The history of space exploration, in particular human spaceflight, has been inseparably intertwined with politics. During the Cold War, ideological rivalry fueled the race in order to demonstrate technological superiority. The number of “spacefaring” countries has increased since the 1960s, when only America and the Soviet Union counted. Now—besides China and Russia—Europe, India and Japan also have space programmes that can, and do, reach the moon and other heavenly bodies. But the space race is no longer only about the prestige.
The United States Congress passed a law to legalise mining in outer space—the first of its kind in the world. Firms that someday manage to mine asteroids for resources like water or metals would be entitled to own, process, and sell anything harvested. The predicted ‘space goldmine’ of resources that awaits us raises the question: who owns what in space? However, it’s not only about extra-terrestrial resources. Space technologies have huge commercial applications; satellite technology will provide most of the world access to the internet, something our societies have become dependent on. Given the importance of these, the space industry is projected to grow from $350bn in 2016 to $1.1trn in 2040. 
As we face renewed interest in the ‘final frontier’, we must ask: what will the future of space exploration look like? What are the implications for our societies? How do we make sure space exploration doesn’t only serve private commercial interests? What is Europe’s place in this competitive global field?

Jordi Barrera, Head of Systems Engineering at Open Cosmos—which provides simple, quick and affordable space access allowing businesses, research institutions and organizations from across industries to use space technologies as a tool. 

12.45 - 13.45




Air pollution in big cities

Outdoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in low, middle, and high-income countries. In recent years, large-scale urbanisation and industrialisation has increased the number of heavily polluted cities and areas across Europe. In Europe, nearly every single individual is affected by air pollution with over 90% of citizens being exposed to annual levels of outdoor fine particulate matter above WHO air quality guidelines. The health effects are broad and seriously increase risks of premature death. Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting annually for 7 million deaths around the world and 400,000 in Europe alone. 
Though London’s air may appear clear to the naked eye, the city has suffered from illegal levels of air pollution since 2010, with particularly dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide, coming mainly from diesel vehicles. In April 2019, the city will introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, expending the hours to 24/7 in which vehicles must pay a charge to travel within the area. Despite this initiative, air pollution has proved exceptionally stubborn. Even if vehicle emissions are curbed, issues such as aircraft and agricultural pollution could prove more challenging yet. 
In building smarter cities around the world, what are the most effective policies we can enact to best tackle air pollution?

Polly Billington, Climate campaigner and Director of UK100 - a network of local government leaders
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, Campaigner against air pollution, founder of The Ella Roberta Family Foundation that raises money for childhood asthma research and education 



Changing the future of finance

The monetary system is at the core of the economic paradigm that we know today. Almost all transactions are based on an exchange of fiat currency. But money is only valuable as long as we believe that it is valuable and accept and trust this abstract system as a valid payment method. Nowadays, the trust in money and its value is under pressure as faith in this system erodes. In the last 10 years, we have seen how relatively easy it is to defraud, cheat, and lose money in the current financial system. Banks seem to create money out of thin air and easily profit from doing so. 
Today, we are closer than ever to a financial revolution that may do away with our traditional monetary system. A cashless society is within reach, diminishing the traditional necessity for banking institutions and creating an opportunity to re-think our financial systems. 

How can we use new technologies to improve the system? How can we restore the trust of people? How do we make sure that the future of finance is more beneficial to society?


Coffee break

14.30- 16.30


Discussing what you consider important

This session is an opportunity for Young Leaders to have their say on topics or activities they would particularly like to focus on during the seminar. This open space session is dedicated to the Young Leaders and is about defining and discussing those issues that you think are important to discuss in this day and age with the other Young leaders.

For this session we are envisioning an unconference format, an open space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. Feel free to think about possible subjects or activities and send over any suggestions you might have.

Day 3

16 March


Connecting with EYLs and alumni

Over breakfast, 30 minute short conversations with European Young Leaders run in parallel on issues that matter to them, to gain expertise from this resourceful network.

1. Feeding the Warchest - How the Insurgents Keep Their Coffers Full?
with Dawood Azami - Award winning senior broadcast journalist at BBC 

2. My Olympic experience -  From winning bronze to chairing the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 
with Danka Bartekova - Olympic Bronze medallist skeet shooter

3. The post Brexit European budget battle - Who is fighting for what?
with Aaron Farrugia - Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue in Malta

4. Thoughtful migration - What happens to refugees when they arrive in Europe?
with Annalisa Camilli - Investigative journalist at Internazionale specialising in migration 

1. The power of sounds - Does music make us better people?
with Alicja Gescinska - Philosopher, writer and TV host

2. From here to there -  How will we organise transportation in 50 years
with Andreas Kunze  - CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX 

3. Resilient Europe - Developing Rural Areas and a Sustainable Food Policy
with Tomáš Ignác Fénix - Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers

11.00 - 11.30

Coffee break



The potential of the collective

Voter turnout has been dropping steadily in European Parliament elections since the first vote was held in 1979. Despite the European Parliament gaining in power and importance following each new treaty, at the last European elections in 2014 only 43% of people turned up to vote compared with a high of 61.99% in 1979.
The motive behind the initial construction of the European project seems no longer evident, creating the opportunity for populists to use the more down to earth counter arguments to their benefits. Post-war rational doesn’t seem to be cutting it for the population en large and the idea of common interests amongst Europeans seems to evaporate in a current debate dominated by identity politics.

Engaging people in the democratic process and regaining their trust is the biggest hurdle facing Europe as it redefines itself during the 2019 elections campaign. As Europeans we face many challenges, from migration to climate change, from youth unemployment to data privacy. If we are truly committed to tackling these issues together, the election period is the time to take action and vote.

Low voter turnout has partly to do with the language that is reverted to when describing and discussing the European collaboration. How can we develop a dialogue in which the true common interests of Europe will resonate with its inhabitants? What are the benefits that we run the risk of losing if Europe were to disintegrates further? How can we convince people that they have the responsibility to vote in order to choose the representatives who will decide our common future? 




End of the seminar


In addition to the official programme, you will have the option to round off your trip with an informal post-seminar programme in London.

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Event starts
14 March