Speakers

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Christa SCHWENG,
President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

Christa Schweng was elected President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in October 2020. She has been an EESC member for 22 years, working as rapporteur for several opinions.

She is the outgoing president of the EESC's Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship and chaired the Labour Market Observatory from 2013 to 2015.

Ms Schweng gained deep expertise in social and employment issues, working as an advisor both at EU level and in her native Austria. Outside the EESC, she works for the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.

She has been a member of the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work since 1995 and has held every three years the rotating presidency of the Board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work since 2001. She chaired the SMEunited Social Affairs Committee between 2001 and 2009.

Christa Schweng holds a master's degree in law from the University of Vienna.

Pedro SILVA PEREIRA,
Vice-president of the European Parliament, responsible for European democracy and the European Citizens' Initiative

Born in 1962, Pedro SILVA PEREIRA holds a Master's degree in Law from the University of Law of Lisbon (University of Lisbon), where he also holds a law degree (Legal and Political Sciences).

He was elected for the first time in 2014, and re-elected for a second term in May 2019. Pedro Silva Pereira is Vice-President of the European Parliament in charge, among others, of the budget, and the democracy and European citizens' initiative. Pedro Silva Pereira was member of the former Brexit Steering Group of the European Parliament and has been reappointed representative of the S&D Group in the UK Coordination Group of the European Parliament. He is a full member of the Constitutional Affairs Commission (AFCO), full member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Commission (ECON) and a substitute member of the International Trade Commission (INTA). He was recently appointed standing rapporteur for the Economic Partnership Agreement between the West Africa and the EU. He is a full member of the Delegation for Relations with Japan, having been the standing rapporteur of the European Parliament for the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. He is substitute member of the Delegation to the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) and the Delegation the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly. Between 2014 and 2016 he was also member, of the Development Commission, where he was Chairman of the Working Group for Cooperation with Africa and rapporteur for Financing for Development, in view of the United Nations Conference in Addis Ababa, in June 2015.

In the Portuguese government, Pedro Silva Pereira was Minister of the Presidency (2005-2011) and Secretary of State for Territory and Nature Conservation (1999-2002). He was also a member of the Assembly of the Republic, elected on the lists of  Socialist Party (2002-2014).

 

 

Dolors MONTSERRAT,
Member of the European Parliament

 

Dolors MONTSERRAT

Member of the European Parliament since July 2019
Head of the EPP Spanish Delegation
Chair of the Committee on Petitions
Member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)
Co-chair of the Health Working Group at the ENVI Committee
Member of the EP Special Committee for Beating Cancer (BECA)

 

Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality from 2016 to 2018
Third Vice President of the Bureau of the Congress of Deputies in the X Legislature Deputy for Barcelona in the Congress of the IX, X, XI and XII legislatures
Councillor and spokesperson of the PP Group in the City Hall of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia from 2003 to 2015

 

Practicing Lawyer from 1997 to 2011, specialized in civil, property and family law
She attended the C.O.U in the United States (Memphis, Tennessee)
Postgraduate in Urban and Real Estate Law taught by Pompeu Fabra University
Postgraduate in Family Mediation and contractual negotiation taught by the University of Barcelona
Real estate and urban law program taught by ESADE
Real Estate Business Management Program taught by IESE
Master of the Legal Practice School of the Barcelona Bar Association
Community Agricultural Law Program taught by the University degli Studi di Ferrara (Italy)
She completed the last year of Law Degree at the University of Studies of Ferrara (Italy) with the ERASMUS program
Law degree from the Abad Oliba CEU (Barcelona)
She studied basic knowledge of German at Freiburg University (Germany)
She has been President of the Young Confraria del Cava of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia

Loránt VINCZE,
Member of the European Parliament, organiser of the ECI Minority Safepack 

Loránt Vincze was born in Marosvásárhely/Tîrgu-Mureș in 1977 to a Hungarian family from Romania. He is married and has a son.

He studied journalism at the Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca and public administration and e-government at the University of Bucharest. Between 1997 and 2009, he worked as a radio journalist and manager at various Hungarian media outlets in Romania. He worked for several years as an MEP advisor in the European Parliament. Between 2018 and 2019, he was the advisor on minority protection issues of the Antall József Knowledge Centre’s Brussels Office. Member of the European Parliament since 2019. Loránt Vincze is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Parliament’s rapporteur of the European Citizens’ Initiatives, EPP Vice-Coordinator in the Committee on Petitions and the Co-Chair of the Minority Intergroup in the European Parliament.

In the last decade, Mr Vincze worked in the field of European minority protection and European affairs as the international secretary of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ). He is the Vice-President of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement of Romania (RMKDM). Since 2016, he has been the President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), the largest umbrella organisation of the autochthonous national minorities in Europe, based in Germany.

On behalf of the FUEN, Loránt Vincze coordinated the successful Minority SafePack European Citizens’ Initiative, which collected 1.2 million signatures calling on the European Union Institutions to adopt legal acts on the protection of European linguistic and cultural heritage. 

Kinga JOÓ,
Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), chair of the ECI ad hoc group of the EESC

Kinga Joó is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee since 2010. She is active in the work of the Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC) and Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society (TEN) sections. She was rapporteur of the EESC opinion adopted in March 2018 on the „Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Citizens' Initiative”.

Her background is in social and civil society organisations in Hungary. She is chairing the Social Responsibility board of the National Civil Cooperation Fund since 2020, where she has been a board member during the last three terms. She is also vice-president of the largest family organisation in Hungary, the National Association of Large Families (NOE).

Christophe LEFÈVRE,
Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

LEFÈVRE, Christophe, 54 years old, French, MBA specialized in Insurance

National representative at the EESC of the French Confederation of Management - General Confederation of Executives (CFE-CGC), former responsible for European and international affairs

  • Member and former President of the European Citizen Initiative since 2015
  • INT Single Market, Production and Consumption Section member (Bureau member)
  • ECO Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion Section Member
  • Conference on Future of Europe EESC Executive Committee/ad-hoc group member

Member of the Board of Directors of Think Thanks like Confrontations Europe, Europe & Entreprise, Icosi, AFOIT (French association of ILO), President of the European Federation of Managers & Managerial Staff of the Insurance Sector (AECA), and currently working in a reinsurance Company while being also Secretary of its European Worker’s Committee. 

Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ,
Member of the European Committee of the Regions

Karl-Heinz Lambertz (born 4 June 1952) is President of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community of Belgium and former President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) from 12 July 2017 until 12 February 2020. Mr Lambertz has been a CoR member since 2001.  

Mr Lambertz is holding a master's degree in law from the University of Louvain (UCLouvain) with an additional specialisation in German law from University of Heidelberg. After a number of functions linked to his academic background in law, he became a member of Parliament for the German-speaking Community in 1981.

Between 1990 and 1999, he held numerous ministerial posts in the German-speaking Community government before being elected Minister President (1999–2014). In 2014, he became President of the Parliament for the first time, a post he held until 2016 before he was appointed to represent the German-speaking Community in the Belgian Senate. In June 2019, he resumed office as president of the Parliament, a position which he holds today.

 

Assya KAVRAKOVA,
Executive Director of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)

Assya Kavrakova is the Executive Director of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) - http://www.ecas.org/ - an international non-profit association, based in Brussels, with a pan-European membership and nearly 30 years of experience in empowering citizens to exercise their rights and campaigning for an inclusive, transparent and democratic Europe. Ms Kavrakova has more than twenty years of experience in senior management positions in the non-governmental sector and in-depth knowledge of European Citizenship, European Rights Framework, EU civic participation mechanisms. Assya Kavrakova has a Master’s degree in Law and another Master’s degree in European Studies.  She is also a member of the Board of EUobserver - a not-for-profit, independent online newspaper.

Ms Kavrakova is currently the Project Manager of the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum – a multilingual, online collaborative platform, operated by ECAS on behalf of and under contract with the European Commission.

Virginia FIUME,
Coordinator of EUMANS and of the European Network of the European Citizens Initiative StopGlobalWarming.eu

Virginia Fiume is the coordinator of EUMANS and of the European Network of the European Citizens Initiative StopGlobalWarming.eu. She left London in 2019 to launch EUMANS, the pan-European citizens movement for democracy and sustainability. Now based in Bruxelles, she coordinates European-level participatory democracy initiatives for sustainability and democracy, combining advocacy, networking and citizens empowerment and community engagement activities. She is also the representative of EUMANS within the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe and the coordinator of the European initiatives of Science for Democracy. She holds a degree at Universitá degli Studi di Milano in Critic and Theory of Contemporary Literature, and a MA in Anthropology of Media at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Virginia Fiume has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communication and tech startup in North America, the Middle East and different European Countries.

Anne HARDT,
Fundraiser, Democracy International

Anne Hardt has been in charge of Fundraising and the European Public Sphere project at Democracy International since April 2018. Prior to Democracy International, she gained first fundraising experiences with the WageIndicator Foundation. Her fundraising practices for Democracy International’s European and global projects include cold calling of new and continuing relations with foundations, small donations, crowdfunding, public and European funds and the development of a volunteering programme.

Elisa LIRONI,
Senior Manager European Democracy, European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)

Elisa Lironi is the Senior Manager European Democracy, working at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) since 2015. She develops and leads ECAS’ European Democracy focus area by implementing EU projects and research studies related to Digital Democracy, Civic Participation and Understanding Populism. She has been coordinating several projects from different EU programmes. She is currently leading CODE Europe - a project on crowdsourcing citizens' ideas on air quality (EEA grants), and recently published her latest book chapter 'Crowdsourcing EU Legislation: Harnessing the Power of Digital Democracy' (ECPR Press, 2021).

She was managing the ECI Support Centre from 2015 to 2017 to support organisers in using the European Citizens’ Initiative. Since 2018, she is the ECI Expert for the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum and part of the team working with Secretariat-General of the European Commission on developing and implementing this online collaborative platform.

Dénes András NAGY,
Policy Advisor on Minority SafePack at FUEN and Researcher at the University of Public Service's Europe Strategy Research Institute - EUstrat, Hungary

Dénes András Nagy is a Hungarian Europeanist. Dénes serves as a Policy Advisor on the European Citizens’ Initiative "Minority SafePack" at the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN). Additionally, Dénes is a Researcher at the Europe Strategy Research Institute (EUSTRAT) of the University of Public Service of Hungary. At EUSTRAT he is a member of the European Citizens’ Initiative Research Group.

Liesbeth VAN DEN BOSSCHE,
EU Campaign Manager, WWF European Policy Office 

Liesbeth Van den Bossche is the EU Campaign Manager at WWF's European Policy Office in Brussels. She leads WWF’s European-wide campaigns and is behind the coordination of large NGO movements, often consisting of 160+ organisations. Liesbeth is currently driving the #Together4Forests campaign, which is pushing for a new comprehensive and far-reaching EU law to halt EU-driven global deforestation and has been backed by more than a million people. 

Prior to joining WWF, she was involved with a number of NGO campaigns and worked in Belgium, the UK and Uganda.

Christian HUESMANN,
Bertelsmann Stiftung

Dr. Christian Huesmann is a Project Manager at the Bertelsman Stiftung. The Bertelsmann Stiftung is an independent foundation under private law, based in Gütersloh, Germany. It promotes reform processes to build a future-oriented society. Christian has worked for several years on public and citizens participation, first academically, then in the private sector and now within civil society. He has created and was part of several international and national participation networks such as the NeWater project and the German based “Allianz Vielfältige Demokratie”, and conducted and evaluated multiple civic engagement projects on the regional, federal and international level. Christian is a political scientist with a Master and doctoral degree (PhD) and a strong focus on democratic and environmental issues.

Maaike GEUENS,
Lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

Maaike Geuens is a lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She also coordinates the Moot Court course "Pleitoefening" in the Bachelor of Law. She is completing her PhD which focuses on the European Citizens’ Initiative and its impact on the democratic functioning of the European Union (May 2021). She conducts research in European law and comparative constitutional law and taught legal methodology. She is a member of the Centre for Direct Democracy Studies, University of Białystok and was a visiting fellow at the Institute for European Studies in 2018.

Flavio GRAZIAN,
Participatory Democracy Manager, European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)

Flavio Grazian is Participatory Democracy Manager at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), where he works on developing and implementing EU projects, with a particular focus on the European Citizens’ Initiative and participatory democracy at EU level. He is the project coordinator of the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum. He has recently co-authored the study “Next Level Participation: Citizen-Driven E-Democracy Tools” for the European Liberal Forum (2020).

Hendrik NAHR,
European Democracy Outreach Coordinator, European Citizen Action Service (ECAS)

Hendrik Nahr is the European Democracy Outreach Coordinator at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS). He supports the implementation of diverse projects, ranging from research to the practical application of citizen engagement tools. Hendrik is also responsible for the outreach and dissemination strategy of the European Democracy focus area. He has recently co-authored the study “Next Level Participation: Citizen-Driven E-Democracy Tools” for the European Liberal Forum (2020).

Freya CLAUSEN,
Référendaire (legal secretary at the Court of Justice of the EU)

Freya Clausen studied law in Nice and Paris and graduated from Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2) in 2010. Since 2013, she’s been a référendaire (legal secretary), first at the General Court and later at the Court of justice of the EU. In parallel, she has worked on her PhD in EU law (2010-2017, Université Panthéon-Assas). She is Professor for Public Law of the French Law schools since 2020. Her research interests cover EU law, with a special interest for procedural matters. 

Jérôme QUÉRÉ,
Director of European Movement – France

Jérôme Quéré : Director General of the European Movement – France, and European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) Ambassador. Former head of the Europe Direct Information Centre at the House of Europe in Paris, he was also president of the Young Europeans – France, from 2015 to 2017. He published a study at the Jacques Delors Institute on "Freedom of Movement of Europeans – Taking Stock of a Misunderstood Right". He has collaborated with Ouest-France, Touteleurope.eu and BFMTV.COM.

David SCHWARTZ,
Senior Campaigner at WeMove Europe, campaign coordinator for the ECI Ban glyphosate

David Schwartz is a Senior Campaigner at WeMove Europe, where he runs campaigns on various progressive issues. He is responsible for English language communications and engaging the English-speaking WeMove Europe community on Europe-wide campaigns. Previously, David coordinated the Stop Glyphosate European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), the fastest ECI to ever meet the legal requirements for success. He has also worked on and advised other ECI organisers, including the successful End the Cage Age ECI.

Carsten BERG,
The ECI Campaign

  • Director of The ECI Campaign and the Association for the ECI e.V.

Carsten Berg is known as one of the "fathers" of the European Citizens' Initiative. He has advocated for the ECI and participatory democracy for nearly 20 years and successfully campaigned for the inclusion of the ECI into EU law during the 2002-2003 Convention on the Future of Europe. Today he leads The ECI Campaign which works for the successful implementation of the ECI by monitoring ECI use, advocating for reform and supporting ECI organisers with online-collection software, campaign advice and other independent help desk services.

Bruno KAUFMANN,
Global Democracy Correspondent of the Swiss Broadcasting Company

Bruno Kaufmann is the Global Democracy Correspondent of the Swiss Broadcasting Company. As a political scientist Bruno has published widely on participatory and direct democracy in general - and the European Citizens' Initiative specifically. He is the author of the European Democracy Passport and the Global Passport to Modern Direct Democracy.  He has served in local government both in Switzerland and Sweden, where he was the City Councillor for Democracy in Falun.  Bruno is the Co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy and is a Research Fellow at the Arizona State University. He serves as the Director of International Cooperation at the Swiss Democracy Foundation.

Daniela VANCIC,
Democracy International

 

Daniela Vancic develops the European projects of Democracy International, including being responsible for all activities related to the European Citizens’ Initiative. Before joining the team of Democracy International, she worked as a campaign manager for the Michigan Democratic Party and worked in the human rights department of the Serbian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. She received her master’s degree in International Relations at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and holds Serbian and USA citizenships.

Olga KIKOU,
Representative of the ECI "End the Cage Age"

Olga Kikou is substitute representative of the Citizens’ Committee for the End The Cage Age ECI. She is Head of the EU office of Compassion in World Farming, an international organisation with offices and representatives in many European countries, the US, China and South Africa, dedicated to improving farm animal welfare, ending industrial animal agriculture and achieving sustainable food and farming. Holding a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and having worked in international organisations in the non-profit sector, in research and planning, she became involved in raising awareness of the importance of citizen participation. Having managed the Volunteer Programme for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, she steered her efforts to advocacy work. Olga has a long-time involvement in animal advocacy and is currently informing the EU Institutions on key EU interests concerning the interlinked areas of farm animal welfare, food and farming, raising the profile of these issues on the policy making agenda. She also engages with civil society organisations and other stakeholders, exploring synergies and developing joint strategies to influence policy in the interest of citizens in the above areas.