Speakers bios

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Overview on speakers' biographies

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

Christa Schweng was elected President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 28 October 2020 for a period of two and a half years. Prior to that, she had been EESC member since 1998, serving as the President of the EESC's Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC) from 2018 to 2020, and chairing the work of the Labour Market Observatory (LMO) from 2013 to 2015.
Outside the EESC, she works for the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), where she has been a Senior Advisor to WKÖ's Social Policy Department since 1994.
She has been a Member of the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work since 1995, as well as a member of the management board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, serving as the employers' spokesperson within the agency as of 2001.

Brikena Xhomaqi,
Co-chair of the EESC Liaison Group of Civil Society and Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform

Brikena Xhomaqi is the current Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform – European Civil Society for Education (former EUCIS-LLL). It represents over 40 European wide civil society networks in the field of education from early childhood to adult education, including formal, non-formal and informal learning providers and learners. She is a member of the Civil Society Europe Steering Committee since 2017 and the Advisory Board member of Association Hub Belgium. She is the former Head of Office of the European Students’ Union (ESU) and Director of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). She was active in civil society from early ages as an elected representative of different school and university student bodies. In 2010 she joined the civil society at European level initially as elected representative of the European Students’ Union in charge of social affairs, later on, she specialised on student mobility issues in particular inclusiveness of mobility programmes but also issues related to social inclusion and labour market integration of young people as well as their participation.


Dubravka Šuica,
European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography

Since December 2019, Dubravka Šuica is Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography. Mrs Šuica a Croatian politician from the city of Dubrovnik, where she served for two terms as its first female mayor and was awarded the 2006 World Mayor Award. Dubravka Šuica entered politics in the 1990s as a Member of the Croatian Democratic Union and served as a Member of the Croatian Parliament and Vice-Chair of the EU Integration Committee. Between 2004 and 2009 she was a Board Member of the Union of the Association of Towns and Municipalities of the Republic of Croatia. During ten years she was the Vice-President of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. From 2013 to 2019 Dubravka Šuica served as a Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee. In June 2019, Šuica was elected as first Vice- Chair of EPP Group in the European Parliament. Since 2012, she is the Vice-President of EPP Women.

Pedro Silva Pereira,
Vice-President of the European Parliament

Pedro Silva Pereira 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 of the “Participative democracy and citizens’ panels, including the European citizens’ initiative”, portfolio, among others. 

Pedro Silva Pereira is 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). Mr. Silva Pereira was also Member of the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, following the Working Group on Democracy. He is the S&D representative in the UK Contact Group of the European Parliament and AFCO rapporteur for the Implementation of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement from the EU. Mr Silva Pereira is also the 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. 

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).

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). 

Irena Joveva,
MEP, Co-chair of the Volunteering Interest Group at the EP (RENEW Europe)

Irena Joveva is a Slovenian politician and a former journalist who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019. In parliament, she has since been serving on the Committee on Culture and Education, as vice coordinator for Renew Europe,  and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. In addition to her committee assignments, Joveva is vice chair of the Parliament's delegation to the EU-North Macedonia Joint Parliamentary Committee. She focuses her work on youth, mental health,  volunteering, media freedom and the Western Balkans.

Michaela Šojdrová,
MEP, Co-chair of the Volunteering Interest Group at the EP (EPP) 

Michaela Šojdrová (born 28 October 1963) is a Czech politician who has been serving as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since July 2014. She is a member of the Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party, part of the European People's Party.  She has since been serving on the Committee on Culture and Education, where she is the EPP group’s coordinator. From 2014 until 2019, she was also a member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. Since her election, her work has focused on women's rights and gender equality. In addition to her committee assignments, Šojdrová is part of the Parliament's delegations to the EU-Armenia Parliamentary Partnership Committee, the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee as well as to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. She is also part of the European Parliament Intergroup on Disability.

Oliver Röpke,
President of the EESC Workers’ Group 

Oliver Röpke has been the president of the EESC Workers’ Group since March 2019 and an EESC member since 2009. He has been the head of the Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) since 2008 until 2019, a member of the federal executive board, ÖGB representative in the ETUC and a member of the Social Dialogue Committee. He holds a degree in law from the University of Vienna. 

Anna Athanasopoulou,
European Commission

Anna Athanasopoulou is Head of Tourism, Textiles and Creative Industries at the European Commission since March 2021. An EU civil servant since 2002, Anna has held diverse posts in Brussels and Geneva, relating to culture and education, creative industries, tourism and textiles industry and external relations. Before joining the EU civil service, Anna worked as Adviser to two Ministers of Culture in Greece and as Director of Programme Planning for the Athens 2004 Cultural Olympiad. In parallel, she taught courses and gave lectures on History of Art and Cultural Management (University of Aegean, Open University of Greece, Athens University, Athens College, Christies). Anna holds a B.A in Archaeology (Thessaloniki University) and completed postgraduate studies in History of Art in USA (Master of Arts, George Washington University) and the UK (Ph.D, Courtauld Institute of Art).

Tatjana Babrauskiene,
EESC Member

Tatjana Babrauskiene is working and representing trade unions in the field of vocational education and training and adult learning from 2004. At national level, she is the coordinator for three Lithuanian trade union confederations (VET, CVET and REFERNET) where one of her key tasks is to assess the union’s progress in daily operations at national level and in the international projects they participate in.

At the European level, Tatjana has been a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) since 2015; she joined the European social dialogue much earlier though when Lithuania became member of the European Union on 1 May 2004.

She has a long experience in advocating for adult education at the European level, including as a member of the European Commission advisory committee on vocational education (ACVT). In 2010, when the European Sectoral Social Dialogue in Education was established, she was appointed as the Lithuanian delegate of the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ESSDE). She is also an expert of the European trade union confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE).

Marta Barandiy,
International lawyer and a founding chair of Brussels-based NGO Promote Ukraine.

Dr. Marta Barandiy is an international lawyer and a founding chair of Brussels-based NGO Promote Ukraine. Marta has organised numerous events on the geopolitical situation of Ukraine since the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan). For more than 3 years, she has been editor-in-chief of the journal Brussels Ukraїna Review, the 8th edition of which from December 2021 featured the then-possible attack of Russia on Ukraine. With the start of the full-scale war, Marta has given her full support to a big team of volunteers who help Ukraine and Ukrainians in Belgium. Today, her organisation runs the Ukrainian Hub at Station Europe, which was inaugurated by the President of the European Parliament and at the European Economic and Social Committee, inaugurated by the President of the EESC.

Dr Nazik Beishenaly,
KU Leuven

Nazik Beishenaly is a researcher at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), where she works on the role of cooperatives and social entrepreneurship in sustainable development. Nazik holds a Master degree from the University of Oxford (UK) in Public Policy, and a PhD degree in Economics from the Grenoble Alpes University (France) on the economic role of credit cooperatives. In the past, she served as the president of the Cooperatives’ Union of Kyrgyzstan. She has extensive policy advisory experience supporting governments and UN agencies on social and economic development policies.

Ingrid Bellander Todino,

Ingrid Bellander Todino is Head of the Fundamental Rights Policy unit of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST). Previously, she was member of the cabinet of Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, and has held Deputy Head of Unit and team leader roles in the areas of gender equality, procedural criminal law and victims’ rights in DG JUST, as well as programme manager for the Daphne Programme on combatting violence against children, young people and women. Before joining the European Commission in 2004, Ingrid worked as legal counsel for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency based in Rome, and has also practiced EU law in an international law firm in Brussels. She holds a law degree from Uppsala University in Sweden and a post-graduate Master’s degree in EU law from the Institute of European Studies at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. 

Andreea Belu,
European Digital Rights (EDRi)

Andreea Belu is Head of Communications and Campaigns at the European Digital Rights (EDRi), a network of over 47 digital rights NGOs across Europe and beyond. In her work, she leads EDRi strategy around campaigns and oversees public communications around EDRi's digital files. Prior to joining EDRi, she established and co-lead an NGO in Denmark, led communications research for a Copenhagen-based tech startup and monitored and evaluated and enterprise's social impact the UK. Andreea is based in Brussels.

Noura Berrouba,
National Council of Swedish Children’s Youth Organisations (LSU)

Noura Berrouba is full-time President of the National Council of Swedish Children’s Youth Organisations (LSU), the umbrella organisation for Sweden's children and youth organisations. LSU gathers over 80 national organisations that collectively mobilize over 650 000 children and young people. She serves on the boards of Civil Rights Defenders, CONCORD Sweden, the Swedish-Norwegian fund, Höj Rösten foundation and on the the World Economic’s foundation board for the Global Shapers Community. Noura serves as an advisor to Apolitical Academy, Global Utmaning, the Swedish Dialogue Institute for the Middle East and North Africa. Noura spent two years with the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, first in Brussels at the foreign and security policy department at Sweden's Permanent Representation to the EU and later as Programme Officer at the Swedish Dialogue Institute for the Middle East and North Africa. Between 2017-2020 she served as a Member of the Governing Body of the European Youth Parliament (EYP), overseeing its strategic work on external partnerships, active citizenship, communication and welfare. Noura served as Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in 2019, highlighting the importance of expanding civic and democratic space and strengthening civic participation and education. Noura studied international humanitarian law at the Swedish Defence University.

Eugénie Carrez,
JCI Belgium

Eugénie Carrez is National President 2023 of JCI Belgium. JCI Belgium is a non-profit organisation of young active citizens from 18 to 40 years old who are engaged and committed to creating impact in their communities with the goal to provide leadership development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change. Eugénie is a member of JCI since 2006 and took different functions within JCI on a local, regional and national level. Besides this volunteering engagement, Eugénie is professionally active as legal advisor, specialised in corporate law, contract law and M&A and today working at Van Havermaet (Hasselt).

Gabriella Civico,
Director CEV

Gabriella Civico is from the UK, but lived in Spain and Portugal for many years before moving to Belgium and becoming a Belgian citizen. She has a degree in Social Policy and Education from the University of Surrey (UK), and a Masters in Education in E-learning from the University of Hull (UK).Her professional background mainly lies in business and the Youth NGO Sector, where she has worked as an administrator, a trainer, and an expert. Gabriella has volunteered since childhood in a variety of fields, including youth advocacy, international development, disability, environment, migration, human rights and sports. Through her work in the youth field, she was involved in the campaign to establish 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. She worked with CEV in her role as Project Manager for the EYV2011 Alliance from July 2010 until the project’s completion in March 2012, when she became CEV Director. Her current role as CEV Director involves managing the network of over 60 member organisations, facilitating their sharing and learning together on volunteering and solidarity issues. She takes a leading role in advocating for better volunteering policies, contributing her expertise on the topic at the European level in various European Union expert & advisory groups, such as EQF, Europass, Mobility of Young Volunteers, as well as in the European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre Advisory Group. She extends her expertise to numerous civil dialogue campaigns and represents CEV in the EESC Liaison Group for European Civil Society Networks and has been further involved in establishing Civil Society Europe in 2014 where she currently serves as Treasurer as a member of the Steering Committee.  She has co-chaired the ‘Our European Life’ thematic cluster of the Civil Society Convention for the CoFoEU since March 2021 and actively contributed to the CoFoEU plenary sessions and the working group on Migration. 

Colin Crouch,
External scientific member of the Max Planck Institute and professor emeritus of the University of Warwick.

Prof. Colin Crouch is an external scientific member of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies at Cologne and professor emeritus of the University of Warwick. He previously taught at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of Oxford (Fellow of Trinity College), and the European University Institute, Florence. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a member of the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino. His most recent books include The Globalization Backlash (2019); Will the Gig Economy Prevail? (2019); Manifesto for Social Europe (2020); and Post-Democracy after the Crises (2020).

Jan Dirx,
EESC Member

Jan Dirx studied chemical engineering and philosophy of natural sciences. After his studies he was an active politician for the then progressive green party in the Netherlands and worked for the research bureau of that party. After that period he exchanged politics for the world of Civil Society Organisations. He was coordinator of the Alliance for Sustainable Development, which organized the contribution of Dutch civil society organizations to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (the Rio conference) in 1992. He then worked for several nature and environmental organizations specializing in public affairs, strategy and advocacy aimed at governments. He brought together the most important Dutch nature and environmental organizations in the so-called Groene11 (Green11). A joint facility of the organizations to make advocacy aimed at the Dutch government more effective and efficient. He has been a member of the EESC since 2015, with the Groene11 organizations as his home base.
View his profile on the members' portal

EESC member, President of the EESC´s European Semester Group

Javier Doz Orrit is president of the EESC´s European Semester Group. He represents workers' interests in the EESC, and is active in the Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO), of which he is vice-president, and the External Relations Section (REX). At national level, he is currently advisor to the General Secretary of the Spanish trade union Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO.), a position he has held since 2013.

Mr Doz Orrit holds a degree in mathematics from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and is a professor of mathematics. He has published numerous articles and two books on education, training, economics, trade unionism and politics.

He has been rapporteur for the EESC opinions Towards a more resilient and sustainable European economy, Euro area economic policy (2017, 2018 and 2019), Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020, Adjustment of annual pre-financing for the years 2021 to 2023, Terrorism Financing – Controls of cash movements, Anti-Money Laundering Directive, and Combatting tax fraud, tax avoidance and money laundering; and co-rapporteur for the opinion Investment Plan for Europe: stock-taking and next steps.

Anna Echterhoff,
Union of European Federalists (UEF)

Anna Echterhoff is the Secretary General of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) on a volunteer basis and has been a member of the Federal Committee of UEF since 2013. She served as a member of the Executive Bureau from 2018 until her election as Secretary General in summer 2020. From 2011 to 2015, she was elected member of the Executive Board of the Brussels section of Europa-Union Deutschland (EUD Brussels) and served from 2013 to 2015 as Vice-President. Anna Echterhoff is a lawyer and canon lawyer and works as Head of Unit in the public sector in Saarland.

Petros Fassoulas,
Secretary General of European Movement International 

Petros Fassoulas has been the Secretary General of the European Movement International since July 2015. Previously Petros headed the European Movement UK. During his 10 years in the UK Petros also worked as ACCA’s Head of Public Affairs – Europe, as EU Affairs Adviser at the UK’s Financial Services Authority and before that as EU Affairs Adviser at the UK Parliament. During his first stint in Brussels, Petros worked for the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions, as well as in advocacy and lobbying.

Petros frequently writes about and comments on EU issues and has featured on BBC News, CNN, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, as well as the Guardian, Le Soir, El Pais, Ta Nea, Der Spiegel, Euractiv, Politico Europe among others. He holds a BSc (Econ) on International Politics and Europe from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and an MSc on European Economics, Politics and Law from the London School of Economics.

Alva Finn,
Social Platform

Alva (or Ailbhe) hails from Ireland. She is a passionate leader and change-maker with over twelve years of experience in human rights (specifically on the rights of people with disabilities), development and social policy at EU, UN and national levels. Prior to joining Social Platform, Alva worked for Save the Children, Mental Health Europe, the Irish Mission to the UN and as a consultant with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. She also has field experience of working with refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt. You can follow her on Twitter @alvfinn.

Olivia Galgau,
DG for Economic and Financial Affaires

Olivia Galgau holds a Ph.D in economics from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She joined the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affaires as an economist in 2006. Since then she has worked on structural reforms in product markets, public finances as a desk officer for Romania and Greece, stability mechanisms and institutional matters. She is currently working in the fiscal policy and surveillance unit in particular on the reform of the EU economic governance framework.

Noémie Galland-Beaune,
Missions Publiques

Noémie Galland-Beaune is a project manager at the Brussels office of Missions Publiques, working on European and French-German projects for the agency specialized in participatory democracy and citizens participation. She contributed to the organization of the Citizens Panels of the Conference on the Future of Europe and accompanied the citizens ambassadors in the Conference Plenaries. After the end of the Conference, she is now participating to the design and coordination of the new generation Panels of the European Commission on Foodwaste, Virtual Worlds and Learning Mobilities. 

Daniel Gerer,
Head of Europe Direct Vienna

Daniel Gerer has been a volunteer for various European NGOs, such as the European Federalists, for over 25 years. He is an elected member of the Executive Board of the NGO Union of European Federalists (UEF) and heads Europe Direct Vienna. He has developed and carried out numerous Europe communication campaigns and initiatives such as Europa.cafe, which have received several state awards.

Andris Gobiņš,
EESC Member, 
President of the European Movement – Latvia

Andris is President of the European Movement – Latvia, member of the Government Cooperation Council of Latvia, member of the EESC and spokesperson of the EESC Associational Life Category. As EESC co-rapporteur of the European Democracy Action Plan and rapporteur of the Reinforcing democracy and integrity of elections package he gives a special focus on the implementation of Article 11 Treaty of European Union (the Article on Civil Society and its involvement in EU decision making)

Sandro Gozi,
Member of the European Parliament

Sandro Gozi was elected Member of the European Parliament in 2019 in the Renew Europe Group, where he is a member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. He is also President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) and Secretary General of the European Democratic Party (EDP). He was Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and he is a former Italian Secretary of State for European Affairs (2014-2018) and was subsequently appointed as an advisor to the former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in 2019.

Theodor Grassos,
Secretary General of EVBB

Theodor Grassos is Secretary General of EVBB and Vice-President of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. He is a member of two Working Groups of the European Commission as an expert: “Working Group on Vocational Education and Training and the Green Transition” and “Working Group on Adult Learning - Opening Up Opportunities for All”. Furthermore, he is a member of Life Long learning platform, VET 4 EU2 group as well as the ETF Consultative Panel for the internationalization of CoVEs. Among his key qualifications are the hands-on experience in implementing EU projects of high value. Having implemented and participated in numerous projects, he holds a strong knowledge of the current trends and strategies of the E.U. For more than 15 years, he has proven his extensive Knowledge of ESF and EU Education & VET strategies since he has successfully implemented various international cooperation projects.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen,
Directorate-General for Communication in the European Commission.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen is the Director-General of the Directorate-General for Communication in the European Commission.

A former Chief Spokesperson of the Commission, she took up this position in March 2019, after having served as Deputy Secretary-General and Chief Operating Officer since March 2018.

Prior to that, she was a Director in the Commission’s Directorate-General for Communication, in charge of the Commission’s Representations in the Member States.

Pia studied Business Administration and Modern Languages at the Copenhagen Business School and Political Science at the Institut d’études Politiques de Paris, specialising in intercultural communication and European identity.

Patrizia Heidegger,
Deputy Secretary General of the EEB

Patrizia Heidegger is Deputy Secretary General of the EEB and its Director for Environmental Governance, Sustainability and Global Policies. Patrizia has been working as an advocate for environmental justice, human rights and sustainable development for 20 years, mainly with NGOs in Europe and Asia. She was previously Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, served as a parliamentary advisor to the Greens in Germany and worked in development cooperation in South Asia.

Patrizia has graduated with an M.A. in Comparative Literature and Political Science and holds an LL.M in International Human Rights Law. She speaks English, French and German, a bit of Italian and Bengali, and is learning Hindi. She is most happy on a mountain peak.

Waltraud Heller,
EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

Waltraud Heller leads the work on civic space and rule of law at the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). She joined the Agency’s precursor organisation, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), in 2005 as a communications officer, and later became the Agency’s spokesperson. From 2014-2022, she lead FRA’s cooperation with civil society and coordinated the Fundamental Rights Platform. Prior to joining the Agency, she worked as a communicator, among others for the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and for a development cooperation NGO. She was also a speechwriter for a European Commissioner and assistant to the editor in chief at the Wall Street Journal Europe. She holds a masters degree in social and economic sciences and a postgraduate degree in European studies from the College of Europe, Bruges.

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.

Raffaela Kihrer,
Deputy Secretary General and Head of Policy at the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA)

Raffaela Kihrer is Deputy Secretary General and Head of Policy at the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and has extensive experience in advocacy and policy on adult learning and education at the European and international level, with a particular focus on citizenship and development. Since June 2022, she is also an elected Vice-President of the Lifelong Learning Platform which brings together all sectors of education. Her background is in International Development Studies, and she is a trained teacher in secondary school education and adult learning.

Sergey Lagodinsky,
German Member of the European Parliament in the Greens/EFA Group

Sergey Lagodinsky is a German Member of the European Parliament in the Greens/EFA Group. He chairs the EU-Turkey Delegation and is Vice-Chair of the Legal Affairs committee as well as Substitute Member of the Civil Liberties/Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs committees.

Until June 2019 he was the Head of European Union and North America Division of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, an independent political organization affiliated with Germany’s Green Party. Prior to joining the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Sergey Lagodinsky worked as a lawyer for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. From 2003 to 2008, he served as Program Director, later as Advisor, to the Board for the Berlin Office of the American Jewish Committee. His expertise lies in transatlantic relations, international and constitutional law, as well as law and politics of diversity and integration.

Sergey Lagodinsky is a regular guest and commentator in numerous media. In his 2014 book Contexts of Antisemitism, he explores the relationship between anti-Semitism and freedom of expression in Germany and in international law. In 2008 he was a Fellow at the New Responsibility Foundation. Sergey graduated from Humboldt University and is a graduate of the Law Faculty of the University of Göttingen and Harvard University (Masters in Public Administration).

Judit Lantai,
JEF Europe

Judit comes from Hungary, and has been a volunteer, representative, trainer and staff member in multiple youth and civil society organisations. These include her student union, the Erasmus Student Network, the National Youth Council of Hungary, the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions, the European Youth Forum - and now, the Young European Federalists where she is currently fulfilling her mandate as Secretary General. She is an activist for peace, democracy and meaningful youth participation in Europe and beyond.

Alexis Lebrat,
Leader France

Alexis Lebrat is Secretary General of Leader France, national federation of rural territories involved in the European Leader rural development program. He has more than 10 years of experience in setting up and managing European projects and is a specialist in the field of European rural development policies

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. 

Katrina Leitane,
European Economic and Social Committee

Katrīna Leitane has almost 10 years of experience in the youth field when she started as a volunteer in a local youth centre and now a member of the EESC. She participated in Erasmus trainings and had developed several Erasmus+ projects concerning youth participation. Now, she is looking forward to involving more youth in the EESC and establishing fruitful cooperation aiming to improve the life quality of youth in the EU. She is the President of the Coordination Group for the European Year of Youth. She is the Rap of the EESC Opinion on the EU Youth Test. is Alumni of the Young Elected Politicians 2020 programme launched by the Committee of Regions; Member of the Nation Working Group for the European Union Youth Dialogue and the National Working Group for the European Year of Youth, Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia.

Astri Liland,
Coop Europe

Astri Liland is a board member of Coop Europe. She is the Head of competence and training in the Federation of Agricultural Cooperative in Norway. Agricultural business is the largest land-based businesses in Norway.
Her work contains the development and execution of courses and programmes linked to election committee work, boardroom work, cooperatives, etc., for owner representatives. In agricultural cooperatives the board members are farmers from all over Norway and the cooperative model contains a principle of education and training. With some help from the pandemic the job has become more and more digital. It is easier for everyone to join in, but we have to be in a constant development to make digital learning  interesting and educational.”

Gonçalo Lobo Xavier,
Vice-President of the European Semester Group (ESG), European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, Vice-President of the European Semester Group (ESG), European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
He has been a member of the EESC since 2011. From 2015 to 2018 he was the EESC Vice-president for communication. He is currently the Vice-President of the European Semester Group (ESG). He is also Director General of the Portuguese Association of Retail Companies (APED) since September 2018. He is a member of the board of Mission Unit Portugal and the national delegate for Innovation in SMEs and Risk Financing within Horizon 2020 and a member of the Research and Technological Innovation Working Group of BusinessEurope.

On the Members' portal

Lauren Mason,
European Youth Forum in Brussels

Lauren Mason (UK) is Policy and Advocacy Manager at the European Youth Forum in Brussels, where she focuses on youth participation and digitalisation. She advocates for creating safe and empowering online spaces for young people. Prior to joining the Youth Forum, Lauren coordinated research and capacity-building projects for a European political foundation, and she previously worked on democratic governance projects within the Council of Europe. Lauren has also volunteered for several years as a youth activist. 

Mikael Leyi,
Secretary General of SOLIDAR

Mikael Leyi is the Secretary General of SOLIDAR, a European and global network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to advance social justice through a just transition in Europe and worldwide. SOLIDAR voices the concerns of its member organisations to the EU and international institutions by carrying out advocacy actions, project management and coordination, policy monitoring and awareness-raising across its different policy areas.

Academically, Mikael Leyi is a Political Scientist, with a vast professional background both in competences and geographically speaking he has worked in the 5 continents with European and international organisations of the trade union and popular education movements, as well as the institutions of the EU, OSCE and the UN. Developing an in-depth knowledge of the labour movement's various organisations, political priorities, and activities, and the experiences of democratisation, industrialisation and welfare expansion in Sweden, Europe and internationally.

Claire Mc Evoy,

Claire Mc Evoy has been leading the OECD’s work on the protection and promotion of civic space since 2020. She oversees data gathering on civic space across the OECD’s 38 member countries, as well as in partner countries. She also leads the OECD’s country analyses (Civic Space Scans) on the status of legal, policy, and institutional frameworks and practices related to civic space protection. She has 20 years' experience working with intergovernmental organisations, research institutes and NGOs on issues related to governance, human rights, and conflict. Her background in research management spans 20+ countries in Africa, MENA and Asia. She has a LLM in International Human Rights Law and a MA in Journalism.   

Thomas Mueller,
Citizen & Klimarat Board Member

Thomas Mueller was born on April 12, 1965 in Dresden, Germany. He holds a degree in physics, and since 2000, he has resided in Austria. Throughout his career, he has held management positions in the microchip sector. In the beginning of 2022, he became a member of the Austrian Climate Council (Klimarat), where he was part of the Building and Living Group. He was then elected as one of the representatives of the Council to the board of organizers of the Klimarat. In August 2022, Thomas co-founded the association of the Climate Council, where he currently serves as the Treasurer and leads the working groups for Politics and Funding. The main goal of the association is to track and follow up on the implementation of the proposals of the Climate Council, and to engage the public in a wider sense for climate and environmental protection. 

Christian Moos,
EESC member

Christian Moos, Member of the Organizations of Civil Society Group, is the European Representative of the German Federation of NGOs „Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement“, Secretary-General of Europa-Union Deutschland and a Board Member of the European Movement Germany. He works in a managerial function for the DBB German Civil Servants Association which he represents in the EESC.
Moos‘ work for the EESC focuses on topics related to democracy and participation, the rule of law, institutional and international questions and external relations to the USA. 

View his profile on the members' portal

Courteney Mukoyi,
Founder of Justice Code Foundation

Courteney Mukoyi is the founder of Justice Code Foundation, a CivicTech organization in Zimbabwe that leverages technology for civic good. Some of the projects that his organization works on are: Astrea Justice (a human rights remedy mobile app) VoteBot (an AI powered elections platform). He is one of the young trailblazers in technology and civic space and justice in Zimbabwe.

Conscious of the digital divide in Zimbabwe and Africa, his organization uses scalable technologies that understands the locals in enhancing civic engagement. His work has been recognized nationally, regionally winning the Africa Youth SDG 16 Award and internationally- winning the 10th World Democracy Innovation Award.

Krzysztof Pater,
EESC Member

Krzysztof has been a member of the EESC since 21 September 2006, and from 2008 to 2010 he served as president of the ECO Section (Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Social Cohesion). He also served as the President of the EESC's Labour Market Observatory (in 2010-2012 and 2017-2020). In the past he has held several positions in the Polish public administration, including in the Ministry of International Economic Relations and Ministry of State Treasury. In the 90s he was one of the leaders of the team working on the Polish pension system reform. He also served as the Member of the Government - Minister of Social Policy. He works currently as the Permanent Advisor to the Polish Parliament Petition Commission. He is an active member of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), now he is the President of this Organisation

Filip Pazderski,
Senior Policy Analyst and Director of the Democracy and Civil Society Program of the Institute of Public Affairs (Warsaw)

A lawyer and sociologist after studies at the University of Warsaw, Filip Pazderski has also graduated from European Master’s Degree Program in Human Rights and Democratization in Venice. Senior Policy Analyst and Director of the Democracy and Civil Society Program of the Institute of Public Affairs (Warsaw-based non-partisan think tank organisation), where he works on civil society, civic education, public participation, quality of democracy and elections. He carried out research and wrote reports, inter alia, for European Economic and Social Committee, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI).

Cristian Pîrvulescu,
Member of the EESC and President of the Ad hoc group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law

Mr Cristian Pîrvulescu is a Romanian Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), from Group III ("Civil Society Organisations"). Since 2020, he is the President of the EESC's Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group. Mr Pîrvulescu is a renowned democracy activist in Romania. A political scientist, he is Professor at the Faculty of Political Science, National School of Political Studies and Administration in Bucharest. He regularly contributes to Romanian and international media on democracy-related topics.

Prof. Dr. Anu Puusa,
Vice President of Cooperatives Europe and Professor of Management at the University of Eastern Finland

Prof. Dr. Puusa is the Vice President of Cooperatives Europe and a member of the Board of Finnish national apex Pellervo since 2015. She is currently active as a professor of Management at the University of Eastern Finland and docent of Management and Cooperatives at the LUT School of Business Management and Lappeenranta University of Technology. Her research interests include co-operatives, work-community skills, organisational citizenship behaviour and organisational identity and change. 

Vukašin Ostojić,
Policy Officer at the Recovery and Resilience Task Force, within the Secretariat General of the European Commission

Mr Vukašin Ostojić, an Italo-Croatian national, is a Policy Officer at the Recovery and Resilience Task Force, within the Secretariat General of the European Commission. Over the past two years he focused on the negotiation and implementation of Recovery and Resilience Plans in Member States, as well as on the integration between the European Semester and the Recovery and Resilience Facility. Previously he worked at the Directorate‑General for Economic and Financial Affairs on economic coordination and the implementation of structural reforms through the European Semester. Before joining the Commission, Mr Ostojić worked as consultant advising private companies and public institutions on EU legislative processes. 

Julie Rosenkilde,
Nyt Europa Director, Steering Group of SDG Watch Europe

Julie Rosenkilde is member of the Steering Group of SDG Watch Europe and director of the Danish NGO Nyt Europa, who are focusing on EU process and legislation on national level, and how to increasingly involve NGOs in the process. Nyt Europa works for a more sustainable and inclusive Europa. Julie has a master’s in International Development Studies and Public Administration from Roskilde University in Denmark and a MA in Political Communication from Goldsmiths University of London.  Since the adoption of the SDG in 2015, Julie has been working on the SDG agenda. She has the years been working with engaging especially citizens on a national and local level in Denmark. She has been leading awareness raising campaigns about the sustainable development and made concrete engagement activities for citizens, on how they can actively engage in these agenda, from debating in open conferences to games being used in Schools. Julie is member of the board of ECF and the chairing the Danish 92-group.

Riccardo Rossella,
Social Platform/Civil Society Europe

Riccardo Rossella works as Coalition and Campaign Officer at Social Platform and Civil Society Europe, coordinating a civil society campaign around the upcoming EU elections focused on recognizing the value of civil society organisations and strengthening civil dialogue. Previously, Riccardo worked for several years in different CSOs focusing on advocacy, campaigns and awareness-raising projects in the fields of climate, business and human rights, and economic inequalities.

Piotr Sadowski,

Piotr has been President of Social Platform since April 2019, having first been elected to the Management Committee in 2017. His second mandate as President was renewed in May 2019, just after his intervention at the Porto Social Summit on behalf of Europe’s civil society. He has been Secretary-General of Volonteurope (an international civil society network advocating for volunteering and active citizenship as routes to achieving more social justice) since 2008. He was directly involved in the advocacy and subsequent implementation of the 2011 European Year of Volunteering (EYV), as a member of the 2011 EYV Civil Society Alliance Executive Group. In 2021 he was elected as Volonteurope's representative to the Steering Group of the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe, where he has been co-chairing a recommendations cluster on the theme "Our European Life", together with Gabriella Civico from CEV. He represents Volonteurope and wider European Civil Society interests in the EESC Liaison Group and, within the pillars of the Council of Europe, he is an elected member of the INGO Conference Standing Committee, with a particular remit on safeguarding social rights throughout Europe. His passion for volunteering and social action dates back to his International Baccalaureate studies at UWC Atlantic College in Wales, UK (1996-1998). He then went to study Economics at the London School of Economics. Polish by birth, he lives between Spain and the UK, but above all, considers himself to be a European citizen.

Carlo Scatoli,
Senior Expert Unit Skills Agenda

Carlo Scatoli has been working in the area of skills and lifelong learning since the late 1980s, after a short spell in software development. In the Commission, which he joined in 1992, he has continued working in this area, being among other responsible for the Europass framework, the European Qualification Framework, the European credit system for vocational training, the Euroguidance network. He is currently serving as a senior expert in the Skills Agenda unit.

Dafne Sgarra,
Youth and digitalisation 

Passionate about innovation and sustainable development, Dafne is deeply interested in European affairs and funding programmes for the internationalisation and digitalisation of SMEs, youth associations and public institutions. After a Minor in European Studies at Maastricht University and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at the University of Turin, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Economics and Finance – Double Degree programme between Italy and Switzerland. In 2019 she interned at the Executive Agency for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) of the European Commission, where she was supporting the Evaluation and Monitoring sector and collaborating with the Learning and Development team. After this experience in Brussels, she worked as junior EU Project Manager in Turin and in Venice. She joined ALDA in July 2022 as Project Manager with a focus on youth and digitalisation. Dafne also volunteered at AIESEC Switzerland in 2018 and she is currently a member of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. Italian native speaker, she is fluent in English and French.

Ionut Sibian,
EESC member

Civic leader, expert in the field of associations and foundations, enabling  environment for the third sector,  enlargement policy and Western Balkans. BA in History, University of Bucharest; MA in International Relations, Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, University of Bucharest; MA in Southeast European Studies: Politics, History, Economics, supported by the European Union under the Stability Pact at the University of Athens; Marshall Memorial Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the US, Washington DC.

View his profile on the members' portal

Biljana Spasovska,

Biljana Spasovska is the Executive Director of BCSDN, a regional network of CSOs that works together to empower civil society in the Balkans and to strengthen its development. Biljana has more than 10 years of experience in research, policy and advocacy aimed to strengthen the civil society in the Balkans and its voice in national and EU policy processes. She has led and contributed to several regional, EU and global collaborative projects aimed at a more enabling civil society environment, more credible EU Enlargement policy, improved civil society accountability and more effective development cooperation.
She has actively contributed and spoken to a number of EU and global policy events, she is a current Co-Chair of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness and a member of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability.
She holds an MA in Interdisciplinary studies from the University of Bologna and is pursuing a PhD in Globalization and Democracy.

Hanna Surmatz,
Philanthropy Europea Association Aisbl (Philea)

Hanna Surmatz is Head of Policy at the Philanthropy Europea Association Aisbl (Philea) since 2022.  She has been leading the work at the European Foundation Centre Aisbl towards a favourable operating environment for foundations and philanthropy since 2004. Her main responsibilities include monitoring and mapping/analysis of relevant policy developments that affect foundations’/funders operating environment in Europe and beyond; co-ordination of benchmarking exercises; and facilitating information exchange on relevant legal and tax law matters through publications and events and engagement with policymakers and academia on that topic. Between 2001 and 2004 she was employed by the Association of German Foundations (Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen) in Berlin, where she worked on policy and international matters. She studied law at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University Münster, Germany and at the University of Poitiers, France and worked as assistant researcher at the University of Münster for several years. She also served on the board of the European Center for Not for Profit Law (ECNL) for two terms and has since 2017 been the representative of the philanthropic sector in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Private Sector Consultative Forum (PSCF) and since 2019  in the OECD Tax Business Advisory Group. In 2021 she became a member of GECES the European Commission expert group on Social Economy. She also represents Philea in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) CSO Liaison Group and together with ONCE foundation in the Social Economy Europe board. 

Maja Stojanović,
Executive Director of Citizen’s Association for Democracy and Civic Education - Civic Initiatives

Maja Stojanović is a long-time activist for protection of human rights, and Executive Director of Citizen’s Association for Democracy and Civic Education - Civic Initiatives. Civic Initiatives were founded in 1996 when a group of prominent NGO activists in Serbia, involved in the anti-war movement and non-nationalist democratic opposition, recognized the need to create a social, civic base that could support democratic change by teaching citizens about their rights, democracy, civil society and how to be active citizens so that they can make decisions about their own lives. With over 18 years of professional experience, Maja’s first activist engagement was in the Students’ Union of Serbia, after which she spent 5 years working on different positions in youth organizations.

She conducted over 500 training days in Serbia and the region and wrote, coordinated and implemented numerous projects. Maja Stojanović is the president of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights and Democracy House from Belgrade and a member of Europe Team, expert group for promotion of European integrations in Serbia.

Maja’s area of expertize includes: Civil Society Development, Human Resources,  Project Management,  Fundraising,  Networking,  Human Rights and Work with Marginalized Groups, Transitional Justice and War Crimes, Conflict Prevention, Youth policy, Public Administration, Crowdfunding and European Integration.

Simeon Stoyanov,
European Citizen Action Service

Simeon Stoyanov is coordinating the projects of the European Citizen Action Service in the CEE region. As part of ECAS' European Democracy team, Simeon is an expert on supporting the capacity-building of CSOs to build resilience against disinformation and assist CSOs in carrying out anti-disinformation campaigns and assessing their effectiveness. He is one of ECAS’s experts on using digital participation tools such as crowdsourcing and social listening methods.

ALDA - European Association for Local Democracy

ntonella Valmorbida, Secretary General of ALDA since 1999, has a senior experience in promoting local democracy, empowerment and participation of civil society, and good governance in the whole Europe and beyond. She is a European senior consultant on local development with a focus on the implementation of participatory processes for urban regeneration. Ms Valmorbida is President of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), member of the Advisory Board of Urban Foundation for Sustainable Development (Armenia) and member of the Steering Committee of the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe. She has been Chair of the EPAN working group of CONCORD until 2016, Chair of the Committee on Democracy and Civil Society of the Conference of the INGO of the Council of Europe from 2008 to 2011, and she was the coordinator of the subgroup on local government and public administration reform of the Civil Society Forum for Eastern Partnership. In 2012-13, she was board Member of CIVICUS – the World Alliance for Citizens Participation. She has an academic career at the university of Padova, Italy, and published two books on the involvement of citizens at the local level to promote democracy as well as various articles. Antonella Valmorbida is a French and Italian native speaker and she is fluent in English and Russian.

Matteo Vespa,
European Students’ Union

Matteo Vespa is the President of the European Students’ Union. Matteo, a Sardinian, has been active in the organised student movement at the local, national, and European levels since 2016. From 2018 to 2020, he served as International Officer for UDU – Unione degli Universitari, Italy’s main student union. As a member of the ESU Executive Committee, he worked extensively on academic freedom, Belarus, Next Generation EU, the Conference on the Future of Europe, global outreach and solidarity, the European Education Area and European Universities, brain drain, Erasmus+, Swiss-EU student mobility, Internationalisation at Home, and the proposal for a European level Students At Risk scholarship scheme. His current areas of responisibility are: European Education Area and European Universities, Public Responsibility, Governance and Financing of Higher Education, BFUG Working Group on Fundamental Values of the EHEA, Students At Risk scholarship scheme, Ukraine.
Matteo graduated from the University of Bologna with a Master’s degree in International and Diplomatic Sciences.

Nana Walzer,

Nana Walzer, PhD, is a communication scientists, journalist, university lecturer, business-trainer and author from Vienna, Austria. She hosts European- and democracy-educative formats like podcasts, seminars or discussions and is the chairwoman of the NGO Europe:United. Her engagement was awarded by the Republic of Austria with the Europa-Staatspreis (2018), the EESC-Civil Solidarity Prize (2020), the Kaiser-Maximilian Award of Tyrol (2021), and a Mérite Européen medal (2022).