Our network

Board of Trustees
Etienne Davignon
President of Friends of Europe, Belgian Minister of State and former European Commission Vice-President

Etienne is one of the few statesmen in Europe who has been actively involved in EU affairs from the beginning, from his early role as Chief of Staff to Paul-Henri Spaak to today. He has held high-level positions in both the public and private sectors, including as Vice-President of the European Commission, President of the Société Générale de Belgique, first President of the International Energy Agency and through various board mandates.

Giles Merritt
Founder & Chairman

Giles founded Friends of Europe in 1999, and its policy journal Europe’s World in 2005. His career as a journalist spanned 15 years as a Financial Times foreign correspondent, the last five as Brussels Correspondent, and 25 years as a contributor of Op-Ed columns to the International Herald Tribune on European political and economic issues. In 2010 he was named by the Financial Times as one of 30 ‘Eurostars’ who most influence thinking on Europe’s future. His latest book is “Slippery Slope: Europe’s Troubled Future” (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Joaquín Almunia
Visiting Professor at LSE and Sciences Po Paris and Vice-President of the European Commission (2010-2014)

Joaquín Almunia is Visiting Professor at LSE and Sciences Po Paris and an experienced politician who was responsible for competition policy at the European Commission. From 2010 to 2014, he has led the efforts to control the state aid granted to banks during the crisis and ensure fair competition between businesses and companies. Prior to that, he was responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs during European Commission President Barroso’s previous mandate.

László Andor
Head of Department of Economic Policy at Corvinus University, Budapest and European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (2010-2014)

László Andor is a Hungarian economist and politician. He currently holds the position of Head of Department of Economic Policy at Corvinus University in Budapest and is a Senior Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He was also European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion during José Manuel Barroso second term. Before his time as Commissioner, he was a Member of the Board of Directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), representing the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia.

Michel Barnier
European Commission lead Brexit negotiator and European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services (2010-2014)

Michel Barnier is a French politician with a particular expertise in security and defence policy. He currently serves as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. Previously, he was elected as Member of the European Parliament and the President of the French Delegation of the EPP. Afterwards, he worked as European Commissioner and then Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Internal Market and Services.

Enrique Barón Crespo
President of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation and European Parliament President (1989-1992)

Enrique Barón Crespo is a Spanish politician, economist and lawyer. A Member of European Parliament for over twenty years, he served as President of the European Parliament and of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. Additionally, he chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee and the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament. He is the author of numerous books on a range of global and European issues, which were translated in several other languages.

Xavier Bettel
Prime Minister of Luxembourg

Xavier Bettel is a Luxembourgish politician and lawyer who serves as the 24th Prime Minister of Luxembourg after succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker. Before becoming Prime Minister, he has held posts as Mayor of Luxembourg City, Member of the Chamber of Deputies and Member of the Luxembourg City communal council. Parallel to the beginnings of his political career, he has also practised as a lawyer, having studied, amongst others, Public and European Law.

Carl Bildt
Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs (2006-2014) and former Swedish Prime Minister

A renowned international diplomat, Carl Bildt led the Swedish government that negotiated and signed Sweden’s accession to the EU and modernised its welfare system. He later served as Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs and was one of the initiators of the EU’s Easter Partnership and of EU engagement in the Middle East. Most recently, he chaired the Global Commission on Internet Governance that produced original research and recommendations on topics such as cyber security, internet freedom and the dark web.

Joachim Bitterlich
Professor at ESCP Europe and Diplomatic Advisor to Helmut Kohl (1987-1998)

Joachim Bitterlich is a lawyer and former German diplomat. He was adviser to Helmut Kohl, first for European politics and then leading the Department for Foreign, Development and Security Policy at the Federal Chancellery. Throughout his diplomatic career, he served in Algeria, Spain and as the German Ambassador to NATO. With his extensive experience on China, Bitterlich is also Vice-President of the Comité France-Chine, Member of the China Advisory Council and was the first European to be invited to take part in the annual Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in 2001. Currently, he works as a professor at ESCP Europe in Paris. 

Franziska Katharina Brantner
Member of the German Bundestag and Member of the European Parliament (2009-2013)

Franziska Katharina Brantner is a German politician. Since 2013, she is Member of the German Parliament for the Green Party where she has served as Chairwoman of the parliamentary Sub-Committee for Civilian Crisis Prevention and as member of the Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Previously, she was a Member of the European Parliament where she worked, amongst others, on foreign affairs, security and defence issues. As such, she was member of the Peace and Security Commission of the Green national party and one of the authors of the party's manifesto for the European election in 2009.

Elmar Brok
Member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs

Elmar Brok has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1980, best known for his role as chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2007. Brok has held many leadership positions in German and European politics. As a member of the Convention on the Constitution for Europe and in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Brok is widely credited with contributing crucially to the Constitution of the European Union. He is currently the President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF).

John Bruton
Advisor to Fair Observer and Prime Minister of Ireland’s Rainbow Coalition government (1994-1997)

John Bruton is an Irish politician and former Taoiseach who played a pivotal role in developing Ireland's relations with the European Union. During his tenure, Ireland held the Presidency of the European Union and was instrumental in finalising the Stability and Growth Pact. After a long career in Irish politics with several ministerial posts, he served as the Ambassador of the European Union to the United States and as Vice-President of the European People's Party (EPP). He currently works as an Advisor to Fair Observer, a nonprofit media organisation.

European Young Leaders
Jamila Aanzi
Business economist, UN Women’s Representative

Jamila has positioned herself as one of the leading innovators in the fields of youth involvement and social outreach in the Netherlands. She has participated in numerous programmes aimed at encouraging cooperation between diverse backgrounds and envisioning a new social and political vision. In 2017, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, appointed Jamila as Dutch women’s representative at the United Nations. As a senior international trainer for the Max van der Stoel foundation she trains political parties and politicians in Eastern Europe, the Middle-East and North-Africa. Jamila is an alumni of several international leadership programs like the Israeli ‘future European leaders’ program and the US state department’s ‘international visitors leadership’ program.

Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar
Co-Founder & Artistic Director at Polyphony Foundation, MENA Young Leader 2017

A gifted violinist and visionary champion for youth and community development, Nabeel has led and inspired people from all walks of life across Israel, Europe and the U.S. He performed with, and was a spokesperson for, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for a decade as well as performing as a soloist with the Jerusalem Camerata and the Haifa Symphony orchestras. In 2006, Nabeel gave up his music career and returned to his hometown, the Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, where he founded and led the Barenboim-Said Conservatory—now known as the Polyphony Conservatory—to answer the need he saw in the community for quality music programming. Nabeel has been awarded the Yoko Ono Award for Courage in the Arts for his lifelong-commitment to fostering a sense of community between young pan-Arab and Jewish musicians

Seif Abou Zaid
Founder & Chief Executive Officer Mavericks International School, MENA Delegate

Seif is a social and policy entrepreneur, passionate about education and its relationship to governance. Seif co-founded the Agency for Development and Enhancement, which provides training for young people, and the Nabadat Foundation, a non-profit which aims to use technology to improve education to fight poverty and enhance political awareness. Seif is also the former CEO of Tahrir Academy, a blended learning platform that creates intellectually-stimulating learning experiences for more than 160,000 registered Egyptian and Arab learners. In 2015, he founded the Mavericks International School, which seeks to leverage innovative teaching methods and technology to develop the unique potential of its students.

Abdallah Absi
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Zoomaal

Abdallah is founder and CEO of Zoomal, the leading crowdfunding platform in the Middle East, which involves the top VCs in MENA, and co-founder of GivingLoop, a sustainable fundraising platform that helps non-profits focus less on fundraising and more on changing the world. Abdallah did not complete his university education, but went on to see huge successes in the entrepreneurial world, being covered by CNN, WSJ, Forbes, and others. He is also an Ashoka fellow, a Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum in the Beirut Hub, and a Startup Weekend organizer by the Kauffman foundation, and describes himself as a social mission-driven tech entrepreneur on a mission to redefine global philanthropy using tech.

Alberto Alemanno
Professor of EU Law, HEC Paris, Founder of The Good Lobby

Alberto is an academic, author and activist. He’s currently Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at HEC Paris and Global Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. Due to his commitment to bridge the gap between academic research and policy action, Alberto pioneered innovative forms of civic engagement and campaigning in the EU transnational space via his civic start up The Good Lobby and his campaigns contributed to democratizing the EU. His last book, ‘Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society’ provides a timely analysis and guide to levelling the democratic playing field by empowering ordinary citizens to speak up and inform policy decisions at local, national and international level. A Harvard graduate, he’s a regular contributor to Le Monde, Bloomberg, Politico Europe, Forbes, and Il Sole 24 Ore, and his scholarly and public interest work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, the Financial Times as well Science and Nature. The World Economic Forum nominated him Young Global Leader in 2015. 

Elena Alfaro Martínez
Global Head of Data and Head of Innovation, BBVA

Elena is a manager at the BBVA Group Innovation unit, where she leads the Big Data/Smart Cities Global Initiative aimed at creating new urban services based on smart data and information management. For this, she has obtained international recognition through various publications in the media. She has played an active role in the development of telecommunications in EMEA and LATAM in the business development area, and subsequently expanded her career as an expert in the field of innovation. Elena holds a degree in Economics & Business Management from the University of Madrid and a BA in Business Studies from the University of Sunderland in the UK.

Saudi Arabia
Lina Almaeena
Co-founder & Director of Jeddah United (JU)

Lina is a leading figure in the sport industry in Saudi Arabia, who co-founded Jeddah United (JU), the first Saudi private sports company to train girls and boys in team sports to promote sports culture. Lina was captain of the Jeddah United Women’s basketball division up to 2012, columnist for Almadina newspaper, and climbed the Everest Base Camp as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. Her efforts are an example of grassroots challenging of strict gender rules in Saudi Arabia, and Lina has been listed as one of the 200 Most Powerful Women in the Middle East by Forbes Magazine 2014.

Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo
President, Libres e Iguales

Cayetana is a former Member of the Spanish Parliament (2008- 2011) and Vice-President of the Joint Committee for the European Union and a Member of the Justice and Constitutional Committees. She was also Deputy Speaker for the Partido Popular of Madrid and Director of the International Department of FAES Foundation. She was awarded the Silver Microphone of the Spanish Professional Association of Informants of Press, Radio and Television for her articles published in El Mundo. She holds a BA and a PhD in History from Oxford University.

Ines Amri
Senior Development Consultant, MENA Young Leader 2017

Ines is a high-performing, award-winning executive with 10 years of experience founding and establishing socially-minded NGOs in the Maghreb region. She is the Founder and Chair of Organisation Volonté et Citoyenneté, a community-based non-profit in the South of Tunisia. She also served as Managing Director of the Maghreb Economic Forum, a Swiss-Tunisian Think-Do-Tank. She currently serves as a Senior Development Consultant at national and international organizations like the Arab Institute of Business Leaders, CANDID Foundation, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Global Projects Partner and Hilfswerk Austria. She is a member of different networks including EYL40, BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, Bosch Foundation, UNAOC, US DOS Professional Fellows and the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Ines was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and is now embarking on an Executive MBA program at ESMT Berlin.

Guillem Anglada-Escudé

Guillem is a well-known astrophysicist and scientist, who discovered the Proxima-b exoplanet orbiting Proxima-Centauri, our closest neighbouring star. He has conducted research in several countries and has been actively engaged with space agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency. In 2016, Nature magazine chose him as one of the ten most prominent scientists world-wide, and the same year he was also listed by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Authors and speakers
Abaris Hiperboreus
Abbas Sbeity
Abdel Monem Said Aly
Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry
Abdulaziz Sager
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla
Abdullah Baabood
Aboubakr Jamai
Achilles Desalermos
Achim Steiner