Now entering its seventh year, Friends of Europe is pleased to announce the European Young Leaders (EYL40) class of 2019.
A talented and diverse group of young European change-makers, this group does not fall short of vision, passion or action. Among this first batch you’ll find an European Chess champion, a medical futurist, a British Member of Parliament, a world-renowned sculptor, and a radio personality, to name just a few of the rising stars that compose this amazing group of leaders.
Meet the Class of 2019:
Read their full biographies below
Mette Abildgaard, Denmark
MP, group chair and political spokesperson for Conservative Party in Denmark
In 2015, Mette became one of the youngest individuals to be elected Member to the Danish Parliament. Representing the Conservative People’s Party, she serves as the spokesperson for healthcare, environment, climate and the Danish constitution. In 2016, she was appointed as group chair and political spokesperson, a promotion which made her the youngest person to hold this position in the history of the Conservative People’s Party. Before being elected to the parliament, Mette served as a Member of the Regional Council of the Capital Region of Denmark and worked as a volunteer for the Danish Cancer Society. In addition to these posts, Mette has served on the board of the Metropol College of Higher Education.
Danka Barteková, Slovakia
Olympic Bronze medallist
Danka Barteková is a Slovak skeet shooter who won the bronze medal in Women's Skeet at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2012, she was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission, where she’s serving as an IOC member for eight years. Danka will also be part of the IOC Coordination Commission for Lausanne 2020, the third Winter Youth Olympic Games, as the as youngest-ever Chair of an Olympic Coordination Commission. She is currently enrolled in a PhD at the University of Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. Danka also played a leading role in the implementation of the Athlete365 platform, a tool to support all athletes in the world, both in their competitive activity and in post-career.
Clément Beaune, France
Europe and G20 Advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron
Clément Beaune is the Europe and G20 advisor to French president Emmanuel Macron, shadowing him during meetings with other European state heads. His presentations on Europe even when he was still in school were so accomplished that they were widely shared. Clément became Macron’s Europe adviser when Macron was still economy minister. Beaune advised Macron, helping him craft the push against Chinese steel dumping that is now at the heart of the president’s broader vision for a more defensive EU trade policy. The French president's proposals during his En March Campaign for European Union reform were clearly influenced by his adviser.
Sophia Bendz, Sweden
Partner at Atomico
Sophia is a Partner at Atomico, where she focuses on Nordic sourcing activities. Based in Stockholm, she advises founders on communications, marketing strategies as well as on opportunities to scale up their brand. As an active player in Stockholm’s startup scene, Sophia also helps with the sourcing and the evaluation of new investment opportunities. As Global Marketing Director at Spotify from 2007-2014, she established a strong consumer brand from scratch, while launching and marketing the service globally. Today, she also serves as a Board Director at Avanza, Ink Factory, the non-profit organisation, Race For The Baltic, and the Viktor Rydberg School Foundation.
Annalisa Camilli, Italy
Investigative journalist specialising in immigration
Annalisa is an Italian journalist credited for drawing attention to a wide variety of social issues. Currently working for the news magazine Internazionale, her articles have extensively covered immigration in Italy and Greece as well as human rights and gender inequality across Europe. Having previous experience at Associated press, her stories regularly underline the hardships endured by migrants while crossing the Mediterranean as well as their treatment once in Europe. She is the winner of the 2017 Anne Lindt journalism award for her investigation "The boat without a name" for which she has spent six months investigating the deadliest shipwreck, searching the 28 survivors who are now living all over Europe. She is also a regular contributor to international news outlets such as the Washington Tribune and Politico.
Fransesca Cavallo, Italy
Author & Entrepreneur, Founder of Timbuktu Labs.
Francesca is an author, entrepreneur and founder of Timbuktu Labs. She is the co-creator of ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women that has become a publishing sensation. As the most successful new title in the history of crowdfunding, it has sold more than 3.5mn copies and has been translated into dozens of languages. Francesca’s career began in theatre, where she worked as both a manager for a theatre company and as a playwright. In 2012, she moved to California to co-found a children's media start-up called Timbuktu Labs, Inc. Since then, she has authored nine picture books that have been translated in more than 47 languages.
Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Lithuania;
Chess grandmaster and MP in Lithuania
Viktorija serves as a Member of the Lithuanian Parliament for Liberalai. Given the fact that she started her career as a professional chess player, her entry into politics came about relatively recently. She was the European Women's Champion in 2011 and is a two-time Lithuanian Champion. Her decision to undergo a career change followed her realisation that she wanted to contribute to society on a more political level. She succeeded in being elected to the parliament in 2015 and became Chair of the liberal fraction in 2018. In the parliament, Viktorija is a Member of the Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on European Affairs.
Thomas Douzis, Greece
Founder and CEO of ERGON Foods
Thomas is the Founder of ERGON, an affordable, high-quality Greek restaurant chain-come-grocery store outlet that now has locations in 13 cities worldwide. Thanks to a network of over 150 independent, local, artisanal producers who create 600 products under the unified ERGON brand, the company is able to offer the widest available range of the best that Greece produce has to offer. A role model and an inspiring entrepreneur, Thomas has set an encouraging example for Greek youths on how to thrive in the face of devastating recession.
Tomáš Ignác Fénix, Czech Republic
Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers
Tomáš Ignác Fénix is the Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers - the voice of Europe’s next generation of farmers towards the European institutions. He also runs a 50-ha organic fruit and wine family farm in southern Moravia and cooperates with agricultural and environmental institutions as part of his farm business. The motivation to farm in this less favoured region is a holistic approach to (re-)build the countryside. Previously, Tomáš actively engaged in the NGO Antikomplex, working on the German Czech reconciliation. In addition, he led the LGBT Christian community called Logos for four years. His ambition is to advocate for a sustainable agricultural policy and a strong bond of the European nations and between rural areas and cities.
Joss Garman, the United Kingdom
UK Director, European Climate Foundation
Joss is currently the UK Programme Director for the European Climate Foundation. He also sits on the board of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and the Board of GreenerUK, a coalition of NGOs campaigning to protect high environmental standards through the Brexit process. He previously served as chief advisor to the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, in addition to serving as Associate Director for energy & climate change at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Among the many senior positions, he occupied at Greenpeace UK, he has worked as Political Director, Head of Media, and Head of the Energy & Climate Campaign. During his time at Greenpeace, he co-founded the direct-action group, Plane Stupid, and acted as an advisor to the TUC and UNICEF.
Alicja Gescinska, Poland/Belgium
Philosopher and writer
Alicja is a Belgian-Polish philosopher who has oriented her career around questions of identity and freedom. A published academic and an accomplished author, her first and most well-known title, The Conquest of Freedom, was shortlisted for an array of literary prizes when it was published in 2011. In addition to having held the position of Research Associate at Princeton University, Alicja has lectured at Amherst College on topics such as philosophy of freedom, Islam in Europe and European politics. Returning to Belgium in 2016, she now leads the philosophical TV programme, Wanderlust, on the Canvas channel and contributes regularly to both Philosophy Magazine and the broadcasting company, VRT. Her debut fictional novel, A Kind of Love, won the ‘Debuutprijs’ in 2017.
Joséphine Goube, France
CEO of Techfugees
Joséphine has served as the CEO of Techfugees since 2015. A fierce lobbyist for smarter migration policies, she was selected to be part of the EU’s immigration experts group to advise on the reform of visa rules for foreign entrepreneurs in Europe. In addition to these roles, she is also a board Member for the Norwegian Refugee Council and was nominated as one of the top ‘30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs’ by Forbes in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Prior to founding Techfugees, Joséphine was partnerships manager at Migreat, a London-based start-up which facilitates the movement and settlement of migrants across Europe.
Luke Graham, the United Kingdom
Member of Parliament
Luke is a MP for the Conservative Party and a recently appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Cabinet Office. Before entering politics, Luke’s interests lied with finance and he worked in the private sector as an accountant for over a decade. Upon returning from five years abroad in China, Thailand and the United States, he campaigned for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. He also notably took on the role of finance director for Stronger In, the official remain campaign during the Brexit referendum. In the House of Commons, Luke is a member of the Finance Committee and previous member of the Public Accounts Committee for the House of Commons.
Suvi Haimi, Finland
CEO and Co-Founder of Sulapac
In addition to her role as a biochemist, Suvi is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sulapac, a company that develops innovative and fully biodegradable wood-based packaging. Named one of Helsinki’s hottest start-ups in 2018 by WIRED magazine, Sulapac products offer a viable alternative to the plastic packaging most commonly used for food, commodities and cosmetics. A former researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, Suvi holds a PhD in biomaterials and is committed to halting the build-up of microplastics in the world. In 2017, Sulapac was awarded Europe’s first founder’s prize for the circular economy, going on to win both the Green Alley Award and the Sustainable Beauty Award in Paris that same year.
Julia Hanzl, Austria
Julia is a sculptor producing a variety of independent work as well as numerous commissioned pieces. These include urn designs for Bestattung Wien (Vienna funeral service) and a life-size graveyard angel made of bronze for a Viennese crypt. Julia regularly collaborates with artists and gallery owners, creating exhibits showing video and photographic visualisations of her sculptures as well as a glass version of her sculpture “Who killed Smiley?”. She also works with a German jewellery-maker, turning her ideas into pieces of jewellery. In 2014, she was named one of the most important figurative artists worldwide, a recognition which led two of her sculptures to be included in the art book “500 Figures in Clay” (Lark Crafts/New York).
Maria Lucia Hohan, Romania
Fashion designer and CEO of fashion brand Maria Lucia Hohan
Maria Lucia is an internationally well-known fashion designer, who has seen her clothes worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. After working several years in Paris and Milan as a textile designer, Maria Lucia returned home to Romania to open her own shop with a modest 800 euros investment and two second-hand sewing machines. After gaining a substantial number of followers on social media and being discovered by Hollywood, she currently runs her renowned fashion brand with 70-woman employees from Bucharest. On top, Maria Lucia is a strong advocate for women's rights and has publicly criticized the excessive consumerism on which the fashion industry thrives.
Gyde Jensen, Germany
Youngest female MP in the German Bundestag
Gyde is the youngest female Member of the German Parliament. She is also Chairwoman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Prior to these posts, she spent time working in Geneva and Washington D.C, in addition to serving as communications manager at a political foundation. She is the co-founder of the start-up network platform, 'Kiel Starting City'. In October 2017, she was elected a Member to the German Bundestag and is the speaker on human rights for the FDP parliamentary group. Since January 2018, she has chaired the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Abdalla Kablan, Malta
Serial entrepreneur and academic
Abdalla is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning Fintech expert. He specialises in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the design of complex financial systems. Throughout his career, he founded a number of start-ups and companies specialising in deep learning, professional match-making and Fintech. Furthermore, Abdalla is an Alumni of Microsoft Ventures, UK and worked on projects which were featured at the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos. He is also an academic at the University of Malta where he lectures and researches topics related to computational intelligence, financial engineering and financial data science. In addition to these roles, Abdalla advises governments on matters related to strategic development and the utilisation of technology, Fintech, and Blockchain/DLT technologies.
Assita Kanko, Belgium
Author, politician and founder of Polin
Assita is a Belgian author, politician and entrepreneur. She is a town councillor in Ixelles (one of the largest districts of Brussels), a popular media commentator, a columnist for newspaper De Standaard and founder of Polin - the political incubator a start-up to help women enter and advance in politics in Belgium. Growing up as a child in Burkina Faso, Kanko underwent female genital mutilation. After immigrating from the west African nation to Belgium, she became one of the most important fighters for gender equality and women's rights. Having initially integrated the liberal party, she has since moved to the Flemish conservative party and aims to maintain her advocacy for fairness. She wrote two books on feminism and the position of women.
Marta Krupinska, Poland/UK
Entrepreneur, Co-Founder Azimo
Marta is a London based fintech entrepreneur, co-founder of real time pay FinTech startup FreeUp and entrepreneur-in-residence at the global GovTech firm PUBLIC.io. Having experienced first-hand the kinds of challenges that arise when attempts are made to send money home, she was previously a co-founder of a global money transfer platform Azimo which raised +$70M in funding and gained over 1 million customers. She has also received prestigious awards such as Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in Finance in 2016 and the Evening Standard's London’s Most Influential People in 2018. Marta is a frequent public speaker and advocate for responsible leadership and diversity & inclusion.
Andreas Kunze, Germany
CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX
Andreas is the CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX, a company that combines smart sensors and analytics based on artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of guaranteeing the punctual operation and maintenance of railway networks. While working for corporations like Siemens and BMW, Andreas came to the realisation that many industrial companies were not yet aware of the advantages accompanying the Internet of Things, nor did they know how to properly avail of their data. He managed to raise +$50 million with leading Silicon Valley investors and just a year later, KONUX won the national mobility award ‘Deutscher Mobilitätspreis’ along with the German digital award ‘The Spark’ in 2016. That same year, Andreas was the youngest CEO to be included in the entrepreneur list by the German Capital Magazine.
Alex Loizou, Cyprus
Co-founder and CTO of Trouva
Alex is a computer scientist turned entrepreneur who is leading the technological developments enabling independent retailers to compete against larger chains. Over the past 5 years, he has raised $13.8 m from a range of investors, including eBay and Google. Alex is also actively involved in the UK start up ecosystem, by simultaneously building his own company and taking on the role of mentor and advisor for various events. Previously a member of the inaugural cohort of EntrepreneurFirst, Europe’s leading pre-seed investment programme for technical founders, Alex was included in both the global and European Forbes 30 under 30 lists of 2016.
Magid Magid, UK
Lord Mayor of Sheffield
Magid is the Lord Mayor of Sheffield. He is the youngest person ever to hold the job and he is also the first Green Party councillor to wear the chain of office. Magid came to Sheffield aged five after six months in an Ethiopian refugee camp. He came to study aquatic zoology, after which he worked in digital marketing and for the housing charity Shelter. Magid joined the Green Party in 2015 during the rise of the far-right party UKIP. From 2017 to 2018, he served as Deputy Lord Mayor, and during this period he participated in the third series of the reality show Hunted. In 2018, he was chosen by the council to serve the one-year term as Lord Mayor. In his inaugural portrait, Magid squatted on a balustrade wearing green Dr. Martens, an image that went viral on social media.
Miguel Pina Martins, Portugal
CEO and Founder Science4You
Miguel is responsible for founding the toy company, Science4You, which develops, produces and sells scientific toys that have been awarded on the basis of their scientific merit, in addition to their innovation and usefulness in teaching environments. Miguel founded the company in 2008 at the age of 22 when he was still a student. Since then, Miguel has collected several individual awards (as well as collaborative ones) like the Entrepreneur of the year award from the European commission in 2010 or the Business Internalisation Award in 2013, granted by the British Government. In 2015, Science4you was awarded by the Portuguese President with the Order Entrepreneurial Merit’s medal.
Bertalan Mesko, Hungary
Physician and Founding Director of The Medical Futurist Institute
Bertalan is a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in clinical genomics who designed his own profession of “medical futurist”. Struck by the challenge of filtering correct and reliable medical advice online, he founded the blog The Medical Futurist, where he covers technological developments before they get to market along with the possibilities and ethical challenges they present. Today, he has over 3 million readers and is seen as an internationally recognized leader in digital health. Bertalan has given over 500 presentations, including courses at Yale, Stanford and Harvard University as well as the Future med course organized by the Singularity University at NASA. Furthermore, Bertalan was featured by dozens of top publications, including CNN, the World Health Organization, National Geographic, Forbes, TIME magazine, BBC, and the New York Times.
Viktoria Modesta, UK/Latvia
Bionic pop artist & futurist
Viktoria Modesta is a British Latvian-born bionic pop artist, creative director and futurist. Describing her work as post-human and post-disability, she bridges performance art, music and fashion with technology, science and medicine. She first gave us a fresh and glamorous perspective of disability in a cultural content when she performed as the Snow Queen during the closing ceremony of Paralympics 2012 wearing a diamond encrusted prosthetic. Viktoria's futuristic approach on “the body as art concept” got her selected as a Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab which led her to collaborate on a more academic level with artists working with technology and science, architects and multiple cultural institutions worldwide.
Roger Montañola i Busquets, Spain
Founder and President of Twenty50
Roger is one of the founding fathers of Twenty50, a think tank that unites the best global talents on a multidisciplinary platform based on cooperation, exchange and thought. Connecting professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and a variety of major cities, Twenty50 maintains that its primary objective is to forge the society of the future. Focusing on technological innovation, the think tank works on a range of issues such as nanorobotics, genomics, AI and virtual reality. As a former MP in the Parliament of Catalonia and as deputy of the Convergència i Unió, Roger was one of the youngest members to join at the age of 24. In 2015, he was selected for the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program by the US State Department.
Una Mullally, Ireland
Writer and LGTBQ activist
A leading voice on LGBTQ rights and politics, Una is one of Ireland’s most reputable young activists. As a journalist, broadcaster and author, she has written for prominent news outlets such as The Guardian and the Sunday Tribune, in addition to contributing a weekly column to the Irish Times. Her two books, In The Name Of Love, and her anthropology, Repeal the 8th, trace the historical developments which culminated in the two separate referenda on marriage equality and reproductive rights in Ireland. She was the Independent Chair of Ireland's National 2018 LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, which is the first of its kind. A poet and screenwriter, she has authored the documentary, I Am Irish, co-founded a music documentary film festival, co-created the pro-choice podcast, Don’t Stop Repealin’, and co-founded the Irish Times Women’s Podcast.
Alfredo Muñoz, Spain
Founder and CEO, ABIBOO Architecture
Alfredo is a global architect who has designed and managed more than six million square metres across five continents. Named the youngest among the most international Spanish architects by the Spanish media, he has also been selected for the European Center & Chicago Athenaeum Museum Architecture and Design bi-annual awards programme. Under Alfredo’s leadership, ABIBOO has designed projects in a wide range of scales, from large urban developments and affordable housing townships to small temporal structures. Before founding ABIBOO, Alfredo held senior roles at Toyo Ito (Pritzker Prize), and SOM (1,700+ awards). His work has been featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, Wallpaper and Domus, among others.
Matthias Nießner, Germany
Professor in AI and 3D Digitization
Matthias conducts research into 3D digitization at the juncture between the fields of computer graphics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. He currently heads the Visual Computing Lab at Technical University of Munich (TUM). His research is oriented towards the generation of 3D models of real-world environments using video and range cameras (for example with Deep Learning). One of his most well-known projects involved algorithms that make it possible to manipulate the facial expressions of any subject within a regular YouTube video – which he demonstrated on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Matthias studied computer science and his thesis on the topic of “Subdivision Surface Rendering using Hardware Tessellation” was submitted in 2013 and was awarded the highest honors. From 2013 to 2017 Professor Nießner was a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University.
Sophie Nivelle-Cardinale, France
Award-winning war journalist
Working as an independent reporter, Sophie is a multi-award-winning journalist who, since 2010, has covered conflicts and issues across the Middle East. Following developments in Lebanon, Libya and Syria, from the outset of the Arab Spring in particular, she has delivered reportages to a number of popular French news outlets. During her time in Istanbul, Sophie was among the first journalists to report from the frontlines of the Syrian war, reporting on the sufferings of civilians while simultaneously bringing attention and visibility to the victims. In 2013, thanks to her reportage, “At the heart of the battle of Aleppo”, she received two trophies from the highly esteemed Bayeux Calvados-Normandy award for war correspondents, the most prestigious journalism award in France.
Orm Oja, Estonia
Head Chef of NOA Chef's Hall
Orm is Head Chef at NOA Chef's Hall, the White Guide's pick for best restaurant in both the Baltics and Estonia for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Orm’s cooking, a mix of avant-garde and more traditional methods, keeps sustainability at its heart, with his dishes frequently relying on Estonia’s generous endowment of wild herbs, an inventory from which he forages his own ingredients. Following the rhythm of the four seasons of the north, Orm’s restaurant takes advantage of techniques such as pickling to preserve the nutrients and tastes of summer during the cold winter months. At only 26 years old and having already led NOA Chef's Hall to being nominated as one of the best new dining experience destinations by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, Orm’s ambitions are now fixed on the prospect of achieving his first Michelin star.
Monika Panayotova, Bulgaria
Former Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council
Monika was Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU2018. She previously served as a Member of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party or EPP. Prior to that post, she was a Member of the Bulgarian Parliament, a Chairwoman of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds and a member of the Foreign Policy and Defence Committee. Before starting her political career, Monika worked for an NGO and spent time as a research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in Sofia.
Marko Pavić, Croatia
Minister for Labour and the Pension System in Croatia
Marko is the Minister for Labour and Pension Scheme in Croatia. Before entering the world of politics, Marko dedicated his time to physics and oceanography. After finishing his studies, he travelled to Antarctica to study climate change developments. Among the various high-level positions he has held over the years, Marko has worked as an Independent consultant for EU project development and has been involved in numerous organisational and educational development programmes.
Eva De Roo, Belgium
Eva de Roo is a radio host for the Belgian national radio station Studio Brussel. Music had always been a constant in her life but it was only after getting a degree as an interpreter English-French that she decided to follow that passion. She had her first experience as a radio personality under the cover of darkness during “The Wild Bunch”, the late-night incubator for Studio Brussel’s young talent. Today, only 5 years after this first appearance, she has an eponymous prime-time radio show and has co-hosted “The Warmest Week” - Belgium’s biggest annual charity fundraiser, raising 17million last year - four times in a row. Combined with her career as a voice-actor, DJ and MC at music festivals, this has turned her into one of Belgium’s booming all-round media talents.
Daan Roosegaarde, the Netherlands
Artist, Innovator and founder of Studio Roosegaarde
Daan is a Dutch artist and innovator; he’s a creative thinker who explores the relations between people, technology and space through social designs. Having been inspired by natural phenomena like light-emitting fireflies and jellyfish from an early age, Daan’s long-standing fascination with nature and technology is reflected in designs that include his Smart Highway project (roads which charge from sunlight and glow at night) and Waterlicht (a virtual flood). His Smog Free Project has seen the creation of the largest outdoor air purifier in the world, transforming smog into jewellery, and the Smog Free Bike which cleans the surrounding air with every pedal. In 2007, he founded Studio Roosegaarde, a internationally renowned social design lab where he works with his team of designers and engineers to craft a better future. Together, they develop ‘Landscapes of the Future’ by building smart sustainable prototypes for the cities of tomorrow.
Riccardo Sabatini, Italy
Scientist and Co-Founder & Chief Data Officer Orionis Biosciences
Riccardo Sabatini is a renowned Italian scientist and entrepreneur specialized in numerical modelling of complex system, ranging from material science, financial markets, computational genomics and drug design. In 2015 Sabatini and his lab presented an algorithm to predict common traits such as height, eye color, skin color, and even facial structure based on reading a person’s genome via a tiny blood sample. His related TED talk generated a buzz in the scientific and tech communities. Today he’s working on how to solve drug design at genomic scale with his company, Orionis Biosciences. In addition, Sabatini is deeply involved in education for entrepreneurs. He is the founder and co-director of the Quantum ESPRESSO Foundation, a non-profit charity supporting young researchers around the globe to get involved in material science.
Martina Vuk, Slovenia
Secretary of State for the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport
Martina is currently the Secretary of State for the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Having long been interested in politics, she began her political career by participating in the Young Democrats Forum towards the end of secondary school. This formative experience led her to pursue and obtain elected office at both the local and national level. At the Slovenia National Assembly, Martina has actively participated in the parliamentary group responsible for the fields of work, family, social affairs, health and human rights. For the past four and a half years, under two Governments, she worked as a state secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. As a Council of Europe-certified human rights trainer, she has worked with various non-governmental organisations to promote human rights and gender equality.
Serge Wilmes, Luxembourg
Member of Parliament
Serge is a Luxemburgish MP for the Christian Social People’s Party. Originally interested in the fields of history and European society, Serge briefly worked for the national archives before quickly making his way into politics first as a parliamentary advisor and then an elected official from 2011 onwards. After being elected chairman of the Young Christian Socialists (Jeunesse Chrétienne-Sociale – CSJ) in 2008, Serge Wilmes went on to become chairman of the CSV for Luxembourg City in 2016. Since 2017, he has held the office of First Deputy Mayor (premier échevin) of Luxembourg City, overseeing urban development, architecture, information technology, commerce and tourism.
Ruben van Zwieten, Netherlands
Pastor and social entrepreneur
Ruben van Zwieten is a Dutch pastor and social entrepreneur, well-known for building bridges between the financial sector and spirituality. As a pastor he fills in for ministers, marries couples and baptises babies, as co-founder of the project Zingeving on the Zuidas (finding meaning in the Amsterdam Financial Sector), he aims to discuss a more human and moral perspective on the financial sector with its employees. Recently he opened The New Gate, a modern community house in Amsterdam and Rotterdam dedicated to philosophy, meeting people, and building a kinder society. Ruben is adviser at Goldschmeding Foundation and board member at VUMC Foundation and also member of the Dutch Monitoring Commission for banks. Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant called him one of the nation’s most influential people.
Led by Friends of Europe, each year the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme brings together talented, established leaders, aged 40 and under, who have made their mark in a wide range of fields such as politics, science, business, media, NGOs, the arts and civil society. You can find more information about the programme in the EYL40 overview. The programme was originally conceived with EuropaNova.