Speakers bios

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.

Cillian Lohan,
EESC Vice-president for Communication

Cillian Lohan

Cillian Lohan was elected Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee in October 2020, and has been an active member of the institution since 2015.

He is a leader in the field of the Circular Economy and was the inaugural chair of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, which he helped to establish. Cillian has extensive experience as a delegate to the UN, working on initiatives such as the COP climate negotiations and the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

As CEO of the Green Economy Foundation, he has overseen ambitious projects, including the planting of over one million trees in Ireland and the establishment of a wildlife reserve in Tobago.

Cillian graduated from University College Cork and the University of Ulster with a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Science.

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.

 

Margaritis SCHINAS

European Commission Vice-President

Margaritis Schinas took office as Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life in the Von der Leyen Commission in December 2019. In this capacity, he oversees the EU’s policies for migration, security union, social rights, skills, education, culture, youth, health and dialogue with churches, religious associations and non-confessional organisations.

Mr Schinas started his career in the European Commission in 1990. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament, from 2007 until 2009. Upon the completion of his parliamentary term of office, he returned to the European Commission and held various senior positions. In 2010, President Barroso appointed Mr Schinas as Deputy Head of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers. Later he served as Resident Director and Head of the Athens Office of the European Commission's Directorate‑General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN). In 2014, President Juncker appointed Mr Schinas as the European Commission’s Chief Spokesperson.

Margaritis Schinas holds an MSc on Public Administration and Public Policy from the London School of Economics, a Diploma of Advanced European Studies on European Administrative Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges and a Degree in Law from the Aristotelean University of Thessaloniki.

You can follow him on Twitter: Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas)

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

Dubravka Šuica is a Croatian politician from the city of Dubrovnik, where she served two terms as its first female mayor. In 2006 she was awarded the World Mayor Award.

Mrs Šuica holds a Degree in English and German from Zagreb Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. She and started her career in education: first as a teacher and later as the Director of the Dubrovnik High School.

She entered politics in the 1990s as a Member of the Croatian Democratic Union and served three terms as a Member of Croatian Parliament and Vice-Chair of the EU Integration Committee. Between 2004 and 2009 Dubravka Šuica was a Board Member of the Union of the Association of Towns and Municipalities of the Republic of Croatia, and later served as Councillor of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Assembly. During ten years she was President of the Croatian Delegation to the 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, responsible for issues related to environment, public health and food safety as well as foreign affairs. She was the head of Croatian EPP delegation in the European parliament. In June 2019, Šuica was elected as first Vice-Chair of EPP Group in the European Parliament.

Since December 2019, Dubravka Šuica is Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography.

Markus Ferber,
MEP, EPP Group

Markus Ferber, born in 1965 in Augsburg and an engineer by profession, has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1994. During his time in office, he has served in multiple high-profile roles, such as Chairman, CSU delegation in the European Parliament and Co-Chairman, CDU/CSU delegation in the EPP Group.  Currently, he serves as the Coordinator of the European Peoples Party (EPP) in the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON). As rapporteur for the recast of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) he has been the European Parliament’s lead negotiator for one of the key pieces of post-crisis financial markets regulation. Markus Ferber takes a keen interest in financial services as well as banking and insurance legislation. On 1 January 2020, Ferber became Chairman of the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, a political foundation associated with the CSU. In July 2021, he was elected Vice-President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF).

Sandro GOZI,
Member of the European Parliament Renew Europe Group

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 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.

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).

Marcos ROS,
Member of the European Parliament, S&D Group

Marcos Ros is a Spanish Member of the European Parliament, in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and full member of the Committee on Culture and Education and Committee on Regional Development. He is professor on leave of absence in urban planning at the Cartagena School of Architecture. He has been the shadow rapporteur for the European Parliament report on the European Education Area, co-rapporteur of the New European Bauhaus report and shadow rapporteur for the next revision of the Energy Efficiency for Building Directive. Also, he is a very active member in matters relating to education, universities and Erasmus and Buildings matters.

Patrizia Toia,
MEP (S&D, IT)

Patrizia Toia, MEP (S&D, IT), is the Co-chair of the Social Economy Intergroup. She graduated in Political Science at the University of Milan and specialised in Strategic Planning at Bocconi University. She began her political career in the Christian Democrats and then continued in the Italian People's Party (PPI). She was a regional councillor in Lombardy, with positions as a councillor in different periods: Councillor for Coordination of Social Services, Health, Budget. She was then elected to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic, then as a representative of the Ulivo. Since 2004 she has been a MEP and active member of the European Parliament’s Social Economy Intergroup. In fact, Ms. Toia was the rapporteur of the Report on the Social Economy. She is currently Vice-President of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and member of the Committee on Development.

Séamus Boland,
President, EESC Diversity Europe Group

Séamus Boland

Séamus Boland has been the President of the EESC's Diversity Europe Group since October 2020. His policy and political interests include the eradication of poverty, social exclusion and inequality. Mr Boland currently sits on the SOC and ECO Sections of the Committee as well as on the CCMI. In addition to the Group presidency, he holds several other roles outside the EESC. He has been CEO of Irish Rural Link since 2001, a Board Member of Inland Fisheries Ireland since 2018 and Chair of Peatlands Council since 2012. Mr Boland is a farmer and has worked in civil society for over 40 years, including with young people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and people living in rural isolation. From 2007 to 2013, he was a member of the first Press Council of Ireland. He is a trained Speech and Drama Educator.

Oliver Röpke,
President, EESC Workers' Group

Oliver Röpke has been the president of the EESC Workers' Group since March 2019 and an EESC member since 2009. Currently sitting in the Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC) and Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT) sections, he has been rapporteur of several opinions. He has also been a member of the EESC Bureau and president of the Permanent Study Group on Social Economy Enterprises. Mr Röpke has been the head of the Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) since 2008, 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.

Iñigo Albizuri,
Global Head of Public Affairs at Mondragon Corporation

Iñigo Albizuri is the Global Head of Public Affairs at Mondragon Corporation in the Basque Country of Spain. He is also the President of the International Organisation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives, a sector organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance, which includes 49 members with 65,000 affiliated enterprises employing four million people across the world.
A trained engineer with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Business Management, Mr. Albizuri has spent more than 20 years at the COPRECI Group, a cooperative belonging to the Mondragon Group, working in countries like México, U.S. and China to expand markets while committing to the cooperative’s values. He has also acted as the President of MUNDUKIDE the NGO of MONDRAGON for pushing the creation of cooperatives in developing countries.
Mr. Albizuri has been honored with the prize ‘Fair Saturday’ for his work and capacity of innovation and social impact in the cultural field.

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).

Tekle Berihu,
Mentee in Grandmentors Programme

Tekle Berihu arrived in the UK at the age of 15 as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child. In four years, he has learned to understand, speak, read and write English (his fourth language); has gained 4 GCSEs; and is predicted to get A and B grades in Maths, Physics and Chemistry ‘A’ levels this summer. That’s in spite of missing 18 months’ education during his arduous journey to Britain. He is a school prefect, and volunteers with a Covid-19 vaccination centre and with Suffolk Refugee Support.  Tekle is aiming for a degree apprenticeship with a leading civil engineering company.

Frances Brace,
Volunteer in Grandmentors Programme

Frances Brace volunteers with Volunteering Matters as a mentor to two asylum seekers, both now over 18 and with temporary leave to remain in the UK. She helps out at the Refugee Youth Club. By profession, Frances is a PR, marketing and communications practitioner with experience in the arts, charitable and commercial sectors. Her agency, Red Flame Communications, specialises in pubs, brewing, malting and food ingredients. She’s a World Beer Awards judge; has been on the boards of Cask Marque and the British Guild of Beer Writers; and was a leading force in keeping her local village pub open and available to be enjoyed by the community.

Ann Branch,
Head of Unit for Job Creation at the European Commission, DG EMPL

Ann Branch leads the team in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, which is responsible for the follow-up to the EU's Social Business Initiative, including developing policy and financial instruments to support social enterprises, and entrepreneurship opportunities for under-represented and vulnerable groups, including EU micro-finance instruments. She has many years of experience working in the EU institutions and since 2008 has held several managerial positions in the European Commission. She has previously worked on EU policies and funding programmes relating to employment, social dialogue and industrial relations, education and training and the cultural and creative sectors, including the European Capitals of Culture, the Creative Europe and Erasmus+ programmes. She grew up in London in an Anglo-Finnish household.

Patrizia Bussi,
Vice-President of Social Economy Europe and Director of ENSIE

Patrizia Bussi, Vice-President of Social Economy Europe and Director of ENSIE, studied at the business management Faculty of the Turin University (Italy). She is the Director of the European Network of Social Integration Enterprise (ENSIE), representing social enterprises and especially more than 3200 work integration social enterprises across Europe (29 members in 19 EU Member States, Serbia and Moldavia), aiming to contribute to sustainable development through different actions such as creating links between the job market and the social integration of disadvantaged riskgroups by improving their employment opportunities and productivity, and promoting the economic viability of social enterprises and the integration and reinforcement of their role in the general economic landscape. During her time in ENSIE, she has also worked for two Italian social economy enterprises: the Consorzio Sociale Abele Lavoro and the A-type social cooperative Stranaidea. Since 2012 she has been a member of the European Commission expert group on social business (GECES), member of the working group on the role of clusters and similar forms of business cooperation, since 2014 she represents ENSIE in the Structured Dialogue with European Structural and Investment Funds' partners group of experts (ESIF SD) and since 2020 she represents the social economy in the Fit 4 Future Platform. She has been Vice-President of Social Economy Europe since the beginning of 2019.

Andrea Casamenti,
project officer at SOLIDAR

Andrea Casamenti is a project officer at SOLIDAR, a large network of Civil Society Organisations and Trade Unions, whose mission is to advance social justice in Europe and worldwide. His focus is on the area of Just Transition, which SOLIDAR views as a powerful concept that draws together the social, climate and environmental justice agendas, and their respective constituencies. Last year, Andrea worked on the creation of a European Alliance for a Just Transition, which unites a diverse group of European stakeholders behind a common objective: to ensure a Just Transition in Europe. Before joining SOLIDAR, Andrea worked for several years in the youth sector at the European level and was a member of the Board of the European Youth Forum, the largest youth platform in Europe.

Gabriella Civico,
Director CEV

Gabriella is originally from the UK and has lived in Spain & Portugal before moving to Belgium in 2010 and becoming a Belgian citizen in 2020. She has a degree in Social Policy and Education from Surrey University (UK) and a Masters in Education in E-learning from the University of Hull (UK).
Her professional background is in business and the Youth NGO Sector where she has worked first as an administrator and then  as a trainer and expert in both paid and voluntary capacities.
Through her work in the youth field, and having volunteered since childhood in a variety of fields including Youth Advocacy, International Development, Disability, Environment, Immigration, Human Rights, Sports etc, Gabriella was involved in the campaign to establish 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. She has worked closely with the Centre for European Volunteering (CEV) since 2010 in her role as Project Manager for the EYV2011 Alliance until the end of the project in  2012 when she became CEV Director. 
Gabriella is Treasurer of "Civil Society Europe", and a member of the “Expert Group on Mobility of Young Volunteers and Cross-border Solidarity” (DG EAC), the “European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre Advisory Group” (DGEAC), the "EQF Advisory Group" (DG EMPL), the “Europass Advisory Group” (DG EMPL) and the "Horizon 2020 Protection and Security Advisory Group" (DG HOME). She also supports and advocates for the role and value of volunteers and their organisations in Europe representing CEV on the EESC Liaison Group.

Petro Darmoris,
Chief Operating Officer at the Ukrainian Social Academy,

Petro Darmoris is the Chief Operating Officer at the Ukrainian Social Academy, the training and consulting center specializing in international educational programs in the field of social entrepreneurship and providing mentoring and financial support to social startups in Ukraine. Previously Mr. Darmoris has been working as a Director of Executive Education Programs at the Ukrainian Social Academy. He also worked at the Ukrainian Catholic University as an Assistant Professor and Lecturer of Social Ethics. His educational background is Theology (Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine), Social and Business Ethics (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)

Evoléna de Wilde d’Estmael

Co-founder of Faircado

Evoléna de Wilde d'Estmael is a Climate & Women empowerment activist and entrepreneur focusing on making our world better, fairer & greener. She is the co-founder and managing director of Solidartsy and Faircado, as well as a climate activist at Generation Climate Europe. Solidartsy is a non-profit offering business and marketing coaching to women artists. Faircado is a green tech startup tackling waste and overconsumption with a second-hand shopping assistant that uses AI to make second-hand everyone's first choice. Generation

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz,
Mayor of Gdańsk

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz is a Polish local government official and lawyer, Deputy Mayor of Gdańsk for economic policy (2017–2019), and acting as Mayor of the City of Gdańsk from 3 March 2019. She studied law at the University of Gdańsk (2006) and Paris Lodron-University of Salzburg (2004–2005). Already in primary school, she was active in the student council. She became politically involved for the first time when she herself did not have the right to vote, supporting Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz's election campaign for President of the Republic of Poland (1995). It was then that she met with the Young Conservatives, where she later held the position of Secretary for foreign affairs. She was a volunteer of the Gdańsk Areopagus, a forum for the exchange of thoughts, which for several years was a strong part of the intellectual landscape of Gdańsk (2000-2012). She is a member of the Management Board of the Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot Metropolitan Area and of the Management Board of the Foundation of the Union of Polish Metropolises.

Anna Echterhoff,
Secretary General 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.

Maravillas Espín Sáez,
Spanish DG for self-employment, social economy and corporate social responsibility:

Maravillas Espín Sáez holds a PhD in Law from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). She continues to work as a lecturer and researcher at the UAM's Department of Labour and Social Security Law. Recently, her articles and publications have focused on legal issues that have been transformed by the economic crisis, successive labour reforms and the impact of international and European legislation. Since 2020, she has been Director General for Self-Employment, the Social Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility for the Spanish government. The main aims of this post are to design public policies to promote self-employment, entrepreneurial culture and the social economy.

Simona Fabiani,
Trade unionist, CGIL

Simona Fabiani is a trade unionist at the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL), the Italian General Confederation of Labour. Simona has been working in the CGIL department for development policies since 2012, with responsibility for climate, environment and territory policies. As part of the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) delegation, she has participated in the various climate conferences, from the COP19 in Warsaw to the COP25 in Madrid. She represents the CGIL in the work of the Italian Climate Coalition, the TUED (Trade Union for Energy Democracy), the working groups on goals 7-13 and 6-14-15 of the ASVIS (Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development) and the working group “Pianeta Forum per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile” set up at the Italian Ministry of the Environment.

Alva Finn

Social Platform

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

Sebastian Frank,
Head of the European project department of the Austrian Young Workers Movement ÖJAB

Sebastian Frank holds an MSc in Strategic Management and a BA in Tourism and Leisure. He has more than 10 years' experience in project management in the fields of IT solutions, educational organisation and EU project planning and management. Mr Frank has successfully managed a diverse range of projects in the fields of youth, geriatric care, vocational education and training, migration and immigration, as well as multiple IT solution projects. He is currently head of the European project department of the Austrian Young Workers Movement ÖJAB in Vienna and a board member of the EU Youth umbrella organisation YES-Forum and EVBB. For the last 17 years, Mr Frank has also been a volunteer paramedic with the Austrian Red Cross.

 

Andris Gobiņš,
EESC Member, Diversity Europe (Group III)

Andris Gobiņš is President of the European Movement – Latvia, member of the NGO and 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, among others focuses on the implementation of Article 11 Treaty of European Union (the Article on Civil Society and its involvement in EU decision making).

Theodor Grassos,
Secretary General of the European Association of Institutes for Vocational Training

Theodor Grassos has been Secretary General of EVBB for approximately two years and is Vice-President of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME. He is a member of, and expert for, two Working Groups of the European Commission: the Working Group on Vocational Education and Training and the Green Transition and the Working Group on Adult Learning - Opening Up Opportunities for All. Furthermore, he is a member of Life Long learning platform as well as VET 4 EU2 group. Among his key qualifications are his hands-on experience in implementing high-value EU projects. Having implemented and participated in numerous projects, he has strong knowledge of the EU’s current trends and strategies. 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.

Marta Hauser,
Volunteer Centre Manager, Croatian Volunteer Development Centre

Marta Hauser is  a graduate in psychology, for the past eleven years actively involved in the civil and voluntary sector. Works as a Volunteer Centre Manager, trainer and consultant in the field of volunteering in Association for Civil Society Development SMART – Volunteer Centre Rijeka and as an Officer for promotion and public policy analysis in Croatian Volunteer Development Centre. Working on activities related to promotion of volunteering and brokerage between organisations and volunteers, providing technical assistance and consultations related to the development of volunteer programmes in a variety of organisations – civil society organisations, public institutions, schools, etc., implementing training for volunteers and volunteer involving organisations, assistance and consultations in the process of implementation of quality standards for volunteer centres and programmes. Also, activities include implementation and reporting on various projects funded by different national and international donors related to volunteering and civil society development. She is the co-author of several publications on volunteering.

Waltraud Heller,
Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)

Waltraud Heller is responsible for FRA’s cooperation with civil society, notably the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Platform.

She joined the Agency’s precursor organisation, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), in 2005 as a communication officer, and later became the Agency’s spokesperson. Since 2014, she leads FRA’s work with civil society. Prior to joining FRA, 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.

She holds a masters degree in social and economic sciences and a postgraduate degree in European studies from the College of Europe, Bruges. She is FRA’s key expert on civic space, and the main author of FRA’s report on the issue. Her areas of expertise also include communication, and tools and methods for participatory meetings and processes.

Laura Jones,
Vice-President of the Social Services Europe (SSE) 

Laura Jones has been active in Social Services Europe (SSE) since its formation and is currently serving as its Vice-President. She has held the position of Secretary General of the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR), a member of SSE, since April 2015. EPR is a network of not-for-profit and public organisations and its mission is to build the capacity of its members to provide sustainable, high quality services through mutual learning and training. As Secretary General she also manages EPR's EQUASS European Quality in Social Services system. She Previous to working at EPR she worked for Eurodiaconia for 9 years on policy development and membership engagement with a focus on social services. During this time she was elected as Vice-Chair of the Services of General Interest Working Group at the Social Platform for four years. Prior to that she worked in the European Parliament. Her areas of expertise include quality in social services, financing and contracting of social services, service user engagement and empowerment, social enterprise and employment of people with a disability.

Kilian Kaminski

Founder of Refurbed

Kilian Kaminski is one of the three co-founders of refurbed, the fastest growing online marketplace for refurbished products in the entire DACH region. Previously, Kilian Kaminski was Head of the Amazon CertifiedRefurbishedProgram and New Key Account Manager for the largest electronics retailers at Amazon Germany. He studied communications and business administration in Hamburg, Shanghai and London. Kilian Kaminski is originally from Hamburg and lived and worked in Munich for several years. In 2019, he was selected to the Forbes "30 under 30 Europe" list together with co-founder Peter Windischhofer. In 2020, Kilian Kaminski was also awarded with "Capital Top 40 under 40". Furthermore, Kilian Kaminski is a member of a consortium of experts on the European Union's circular economy. The initiative is supported by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels and contributes to the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ECESP). In the course of this, he continuously participates in panel discussions and international projects.

Mikael Leyi,
Secretary-General of SOLIDAR and SOLIDAR Foundation

Mikael Leyi has been the secretary-general of SOLIDAR and the SOLIDAR Foundation since May 2020. He is a political scientist with a broad professional background both geographically speaking and in terms of competences: during his career he has worked as part of the labour movement in Sweden, in the field of international development cooperation, and at the Olof Palme International Center (a member organisation of SOLIDAR), where he took on various roles. Additionally, he has worked with European and international trade union organisations and popular education movements, as well as with the EU institutions, the OSCE and the UN, across five continents.

Luca Lionello,
research fellow in European Union law

Dr. Luca Lionello is a research fellow in European Union law at the Catholic University of MIlan. His main research fields are the Economic And Monetary Union, institutional balance in the European Union and the relationship between the EU and national legal orders. He published the monograph The Pursuit of Stability of the Euro Area as a Whole.The Reform of the European Economic Union and Perspectives of Fiscal Integration (Springer 2020) and he is the author of more than thirty articles on several topics of European Union law.

Luca Lionello is a member of the Union of European Federalists, where he currently chairs the Political Commission 4 on "Economic, Fiscal Policies & Social Policies".

Mariya Mincheva,
Employers' Group (Group I)
Vice president of the Bulgarian Industrial Association

Mariya Mincheva is an EESC Member within the Employers' Group, where she is a member of "Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship" (SOC), "Single Market, Production and Consumption" (INT ) sections.   Currently she is Vice-President of the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA). She participates in the work of the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation in Bulgaria and coordinates the participation of the representatives of BIA in the national system for tripartite cooperation. Mariya also represents BIA / as a member of BusinessEurope / in the Social Dialogue Committee in Brussels.

Vera Mora,
Ökotárs Foundation, Hungary

Veronika Móra has been working at Ökotárs - Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation since 1997 and holds the position of the director since 2007. Earlier, she was the national consultant for the Dutch Foundation Milieukontakt Oosteuropa, but also worked for the eco-counselling office of Ecoservice Foundation. With HEPF and earlier, she’s been working on a variety of issues related to ecological consumption, gene technologies and public participation. Since 2003 she’s been leading HEPF’s Civil Partner program aiming to improve the legal-fiscal environment of civil society, but she also gained experience in managing and overseeing grant programs of various sizes, not least the Hungarian NGO Fund under the EEA/Norwegian Financial Grants.

Besides her full time occupation, she also has voluntary positions in a number of NGOs, among them the chairmanship of the Hungarian Donors Forum. She is a biologist (MSc) by education, but also has a MA degree in organisational psychology, and more recently gained a diploma in environmental law. 

Delphine Moralis,
Chief Executive Officer of Philea.

Delphine Moralis is the Chief Executive Officer of Philea. After having graduated from the KU Leuven in European Studies, she began her career at the European Youth Forum. Ms. Moralis has spent more than 15 years of senior management in the INGO sector, two years in private sector trade union and multiple engagements in Board or advisory roles at, among others, Missing Children Europe, Terre Des Hommes international federation and Concord Europe. She is recently on a mission to support philanthropy to unleash its full potential. She has a keen passion for sustainable development, child rights, human rights, development cooperation, social justice and EU policymaking.

Maria Nikolopoulou,
EESC member, Workers' Group (Group II)

Maria Nikolopoulou,
Member of the Trade Union Confederation of Workers' Commissions and President of the Association for the Development of Time Banks

EESC member, Workers' Group (Group II)

Filip Pazderski,
author of the EESC study "Examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work of civil society organisations (CSOs) across Europe"

Filip Pazderski, author of the EESC study "Examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work of civil society organisations (CSOs) across Europe" with involvement of Civil Society Europe, the European Civic Forum, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law and Institute for Public Affairs.

A lawyer and sociologist after studies at University of Warsaw, Filip Pazderski has also graduated from European Master’s Degree Program in Human Rights and Democratization (E.MA) in Venice. Senior Policy Analyst and Head of the Democracy and Civil Society Program at 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 social enterprises development. He carried out research and wrote reports for such institutions as OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), Office of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and Educational Research Institute. He is also a vice-President of the European Civic Forum (ECF) and a consultant to the Council of Europe in the field of civic education and participation.

Krzysztof Pater,
EESC Member

Krzysztof Pater started working at the Polish Ministry of International Economic Relations in 1986, and subsequently moved to the Ministry of Privatisation.
Working for the government since 1995, he was involved in the reform of the Polish pension system, and was responsible for creating the concept of the funded pillars in the new pension system. Later, in 1998-99, he worked in the newly created pension sector, before becoming an independent advisor for public, scientific and private institutions.
In November 2001 he was appointed as Undersecretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
In May 2004, he was appointed as the Minister for Social Policy in the Polish government. He resigned in November 2004.
Since 2005 he has been working as an independent advisor and researcher on social and labour market issues.
From 2006 to 2015 he was permanent advisor to the Polish Parliamentary Social Policy Committee, and since 2015 he has been permanent advisor to the Petitions Committee.
Mr Pater has been a member of the European Economic and Social Committee since October 2006. From 2008 to 2010 he was the President of the Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO), and he has been the President of the Labour Market Observatory on two occasions, from 2010 to 2013 and from 2018 to 2020.
He is an active member of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), and is currently President of the Central Scouting Court.

Juan Antonio Pedreño,
President of Social Economy Europe

Juan Antonio Pedreño holds a BA in Chemistry (with a specialism in industrial chemistry) from Granada University (Spain). He is an expert on social economy and cooperatives. He started his professional career as a secondary school teacher and became a founding member of the cooperative school, high-school and vocational training centre Severo Ochoa, which he chaired for more than 20 years. Currently, he is the President of Social Economy Europe, CEPES (Spanish Social Economy Confederation), UCOMUR (Murcia Region Worker Cooperatives) and UCOERM (Murcia Region Education Cooperatives). Furthermore, Mr Pedreño is the General Coordinator of the ESMED Network (Euro-Mediterranean Social Economy) and a member of the Spanish Economic and Social Committee. Juan Antonio Pedreño has also been President of COCETA (Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives) and member of the Board of Directors of Cooperatives Europe. He is the author of articles and papers on the social economy enterprise model.

Ana Carla Pereira,
Cabinet Expert and employment&social policy adviser to Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

Ana Carla Pereira is Cabinet Expert and employment&social policy adviser to Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights. Previously she was Head of Unit in Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission, firstly being responsible for skills and qualifications policies and later on for social protection policies (including pensions, long-term care and health). As Head of Unit she coordinated several Commission policy initiatives such as the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the initiative on ‘access to social protection” or the Pensions Adequacy Reports. She has also worked more than ten years on the implementation of European Employment Strategy and several years in the private sector as a business consultant specialised in human performance. She graduated in Economics at University of Coimbra (PT) and holds a MA in European Human Resources Studies from the College of Europe (BE). She speaks Portuguese as a mother tongue and is fluent in English, French and Italian.

Lech Pilawski,
EESC member, Employers' Group (Group I)

Lech Pilawski,
Adviser to the Board Polish Confederation Lewiatan

EESC member, Employers' Group (Group I)

Susana Pinto Oliveira Vice

President of the Lifelong Learning Platform

Susana Oliveira works at EAEA member EPATV – Escola Profissional Amar Terra Verde, a VET school and adult education centre in the north of Portugal. At the school, she is in charge of searching for more and better conditions for social integration of the students (young adults), but she is also involved in transnational cooperation. She was responsible for the implementation of one of the first 50 centers of VNFIL in Portugal and has been working in this field for more than 15 years. She is also a Board member of APCEP – Associação Portuguesa para a Cultura e Educação Permanente, the umbrella association in Portugal, and EPALE ambassador. She is an EAEA board member since 2013 and one of its vice-presidents since 2015

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

Cristian Pîrvulescu (Romania) is Member of the European Economic and Social Committee since 2007 and President of Ad hoc group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law. He is also Honorary President of the Pro-Democracy Association (APD) and Dean of the Faculty of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA).

His main interests are Human Rights, Immigration and Asylum Policy Social Economy Education Culture, Mass Media and Public Communication European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Democracy and Civic Participation Social and Civic Dialogue Common Foreign Security Policy of the European Union European Security and Defence Policy

Aurel Laurenţiu Plosceanu,
President, SOC Section, EESC

Aurel Laurenţiu Plosceanu has been President of the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) since October 2020. He has been a member of the EESC and its Employers' Group since 2007. Mr Plosceanu is involved in activities across all sections of the EESC, and is currently also the EU Chair of the EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee. Moreover, since 2016 Mr Plosceanu has been Vice-president of the Romanian Industrialists General Union. Since 2007, he has been President of the Romanian Association of Building Contractors, which is a member of the European Federation of Construction Industries.

Other past professional experiences include the position of CEO at ABC Asigurari Reasigurari SA from 2000 to 2007, President of the Social House of Building Workers from 1999 to 2016, member of the Board of the Bucharest Construction Technical University and member of the Romanian Economic and Social Council (both from 2007 to 2011), President of the Romanian Association of SMEs in Insurance from 2005 to 2007 and Co-president of the Romanian Alliance of Employers Confederations from 2007 to 2013.

Mr Plosceanu has been also involved in multiple social projects in the construction field in Romania, for example, in negotiating and signing the first Social Accord for the Romanian Construction Sector in 2006 and the most recent one, signed in 2012.

Mr Plosceanu studied at Bucharest Construction Institute and obtained an Executive MBA from the National Institute for Economic Development. In addition, Mr Plosceanu studied at the Law Faculty of the "Nicolae Titulescu" University Bucharest. Mr Plosceanu also completed post-university studies at the National Defence College.

Silvie Pýchová,
Member of the Government Council for Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organisations.

Silvie Pýchová graduated from the Faculty of Education at Charles University, Prague. Thanks to her experience with international projects, she moved to the Socrates National Agency, where she coordinated European programmes such as eTwinning and Euroguidance. Since 2010, Sylvie has been the director of the SKAV umbrella platform for NGOs in education, and from 2010 to 2016 she chaired the board of the think-tank EDUin. Since 2013, she has been developing the Success for Every Student Initiative in the Czech Republic. Her expertise is career counselling, and she co-founded the non-profit organisation Centre of Competence. She is also working on the topic of career counselling in her doctoral studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University. Since 2021, she has been a member of the Government Council for Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organisations and, at the beginning of 2022, she was appointed chair of that Council's EU Committee.

Josh Roberts

Senior Policy Advisor of REScoop.eu

Josh currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor of REScoop.eu (European Federation of Citizen Energy Cooperatives), which represents over 1,900 energy communities that work on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other innovative clean energy technologies. He led REScoop.eu's advocacy efforts on European legislation that acknowledges and supports energy communities as new market actors in the energy transition. A qualified lawyer since 2010, Josh has been actively involved in the European energy policy debate since 2012, focusing on issues related to the internal energy market, renewables and other distributed energy resources, infrastructure, and community/citizen participation.

PhD Alexandrina Robu-Cepoi,
Vice-president and Board Member of JEUNE

PhD Alexandrina Robu-Cepoi is Vice-president and Board Member of JEUNE – Young Entrepreneurs Organization of the European Union and she is parliamentary advisor to Member of the European Parliament, Corina Cretu. Previously she worked as project manager at Central Europe Energy Partners and Executive Director of the Employers Association in the Energy sector from the Republic of Moldova. Alexandrina holds a bachelor degree in Law from the State University of Moldova and a Master Degree in European Affairs from the College of Europe and a PhD in international law. Alexandrina is as well founding member of Rotary Club of Moldova International.

Heather Roy,
Secretary General of Eurodiaconia

Heather Roy has been Secretary General  of  Eurodiaconia  since  December 2008.  Prior  to  this  she worked  with  an  international  youth  organisation  focused  on  the engagement,  participation  and education  of  girls  and  young  women  and  before  that  in  the  homelessness  sector  in  her  native Scotland,  UK. She  has  extensive  experience of  the  development  of  civil  society  in  Europe, including Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and has worked on partnerships inthe Arab world and Latin America. In addition to her responsibilities at Eurodiaconia, she currently aboard member of Social Services Europe, Social Platform, Social Economy Europe and Civil Society Europe. She is also on the Advisory Board of several European level projects on social and economic policies.

Monika Sadkowska,
Secretariat of the Forum of Mayors on Just Transition

Monika Sadkowska is Coordinator of Mayors Forum for Sustainable Transformation in WWF Poland, previously worked for ClientEarth and RT-ON Foundation, POLIN Museum, Theater Institute in Warsaw. Cultural studies expert, event producer, performer.

Piotr Sadowski,
Secretary-General of Volonteurope

Piotr has been secretary-general of Volonteurope since 2008. He was directly involved in advocating for and implementing the 2011 European Year of Volunteering. In 2017 he joined the management committee of Social Platform and in 2019 was elected its president. His love for volunteering dates back to his IB studies at UWC Atlantic College in Wales (1996-98) where, in his spare time, he volunteered as a lifeboat crew member with the RNLI. He then studied economics at the LSE in the UK. He works internationally and is based between London, Brussels and Ibiza.

Philippe Seidel Leroy,
Policy Manager at AGE Platform

Philippe Seidel Leroy works as Policy Manager on Social Protection and the European Parliament at AGE Platform Europe, the EU’s largest network of organisations of and for older persons. AGE’s mission is to fight ageism and uphold the rights of older persons in the EU and international context, in a spirit of solidarity between generations. At AGE, he works on employment and participation of older persons, dignified ageing and quality long-term care, adequate income and fight against poverty and social protection. He also is the contact point of AGE with the European Parliament and its Interest Group on Solidarity between Generations. His academic background is in political science, economic policy and human rights.

Carlos Sentís Meijide,
Founder and CEO of the World Innovation Alliance (WIA)

Carlos Sentís is the founder and CEO of the World Innovation Alliance (WIA), board member for International Development and member of the secretariat of the Global Innovation Fund at the World Humanitarian Forum, presidential adviser at the Organisation of Young Entrepreneurs of the European Union (JEUNE), global shaper at the World Economic Forum, vice-president of impact innovation at the Ariel Foundation, and lecturer at IE Business School, UFV, UC3M, URJC and other universities and business schools.

Ionut Sibian,
Member of the EESC since 2007
Executive Director of the Civil Society Development Foundation

Ionut Sibian has been a member of the EESC since 2007. He is Executive Director of the Civil Society Development Foundation, an organisation whose mission is to develop the capacity of civil society organisations and communities and to improve people's lives through information, funding, training and advocacy. He is also President of the Federation of International Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs (FOND), a platform whose mission is to support the development and implementation of coherent and effective Romanian policy in the fields of international development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Mr Sibian is also a member of Team Europe.

 

Janez Škrabec,
founder and managing director of the company Riko, d.o.o.

Janez Škrabec is the founder and managing director of the company Riko, d.o.o.

He studied economics at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana. His further studies took him to the IEDC – Business School Bled (SLO), Cleveland State University (USA), INSEAD Fontainebleau (France).  

In 1991 Janez Škrabec established the company Riko, d.o.o., which is today recognised as the most successful engineering company in the wider region. For his business excellence and entrepreneurial success he has received the most important awards in Slovenia, among them: the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia awarded him the prize for outstanding economic and entrepreneurial achievements and the Slovene newspaper Finance awarded him the prize for outstanding achievements in the economy. Charles Handy, world renowned management thinker, has honoured Janez Škrabec with an entire chapter dedicated to his activities as donator and patron, thereby classifying him among the 23 new world philanthropists. 

Janez Škrabec is the Honourable Consul of the Kingdom of Morocco and an active member of many diplomatic and business clubs. He shares his experience in management, philanthropy and sustainable development with the wider public at round-table discussions and as a guest lecturer in Slovenia and abroad. As an entrepreneur Janez Škrabec acts as an integrator, linking economic, cultural and diplomatic achievements and surpluses within all the environments in which he operates.

Dr Alfredo Soeiro,
Founding member of EUCEN, RECLA, and AUPEC

Alfredo Soeiro holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Porto, and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida. He was Pro-Rector for Continuing Education at the University of Porto between 1998 and 2003. Dr Soeiro was a founding member of EUCEN (European University CE Network); RECLA (Latin American CE Network), and AUPEC (Portuguese University CE Association).

His positions held were the vice presidency of EUCEN, vice-presidency of SEFI, president of IACEE, president of AUPEC and president of SEFI. His main interests are engineering education, continuing education and online learning, focusing on networking, international cooperation and student evaluation. He has also been an evaluator for the professional engineering association, was invited onto several projects as an external evaluator and has participated and coordinated some European projects on quality assurance in education (Publications and ORCID).

Frederico Sousa Pimental

Secretary General of JEUNE

Frederico Sousa-Pimental is a Portuguese lawyer. He holds a bachelor's degree from the Universidade de Direito de Lisboa and practices in the areas of corporate law, labor law, contract law and civil law. He is currently Secretary General of JEUNE and also President of the General Assembly of the Portugal-China Young Entrepreneurs Association (AJEPC) since 2018. Frederico was also involved in several associations and civic causes since university, such as Portugal Voluntário, Ajuda de Mãe, and many others.

Hanna Surmatz,
Enabling Environment Manager at  Philea

Hanna Surmatz, Enabling Environment Manager at  Philea (EFC and Dafne in convergence) in Brussels, has been working towards a favorable operating environment for institutional philanthropy and foundations since 2004. Her main responsibilities include monitoring and mapping/analysis of relevant developments that affect foundations’/funders operating environment in Europe and beyond; co-ordination of benchmarking exercises; and facilitating information exchange and analysis 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 foundation law issues 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 participates in the European Commission expert group on Social Economy (GECES), the Social Economy Europe (SEE) Board, as well as the Economic and Social Economy (EESC) CSO Liaison Group. She also served on the board of the European Center for Not for Profit Law (ECNL) 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 also in the OECD Tax Business Advisory Group.

Jo Swinson

Director of Partners for a New Economy (P4NE)

As Director of Partners for a New Economy (P4NE), Jo Swinson leads a grant-making fund seeking to catalyse transformational change in our economy so that it values and benefits nature and all people. Previously Ms Swinson served for twelve years as a Member of the UK Parliament, including as a Business Minister (2012-2015) and as Leader of the Liberal Democrats (2019).

George Thomson,
CEV Vice President

George Thomson was CEO of Volunteer Scotland for 19 years until 2021 and has been CEV Board member since 2017. In 2022, in his second term he was elected as Vice President.  His leadership in volunteer development in a European context includes a history of community-building, innovation and impact grounded in the ethics of seeking to understand people, their needs, and facilitating their cooperation and community.  He is committed to cross sector collaboration that brings about public value along with citizens contributing to the common good and working towards the UN Agenda 2030. He is currently employed as Director, Networks & Convenings at  IAVE, a  partnership that works to bring about positive change and SDG goals through volunteering, driven by values of justice and equality.

Aleksandra Tomczak,
Member of Cabinet of the Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans

Aleksandra Tomczak is a Member of Cabinet of the Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans in charge of the European Green Deal. As part of the Green Deal Cabinet Aleksandra is responsible for Just Transition in European coal and carbon-intensive regions. Prior to joining the Cabinet of Frans Timmermans, Aleksandra has been leading the establishment of the European Commission Platform for Coal Regions in Transition and has been responsible for the European Commission policy on coal.
Before joining the European Commission Aleksandra spent five years working for the international coal industry in areas such as carbon capture and storage.

Aleksandra holds a post-graduate degree in European Politics and Administration from the College of Europe and a graduate degree in International Relations from Sciences Po Bordeaux and Cardiff University. She speaks Polish, English and French and has basic knowledge of Bulgarian and Spanish.

Dr. Pilvi Torsti,
State Secretary at the Ministery of Economic Affairs and Employment

Dr. Pilvi Torsti,
State Secretary at the Ministery of Economic Affairs and Employment

Dr. Pilvi Torsti has served in leadership and expert roles in the fields of education, learning, research, science, innovation, public policy and start-up companies in Finland and globally since 1990s. Torsti have worked in large organizations and created and developed new organizations in private, public and NGO sectors. She is United World College graduate (1995) and Eisenhower fellow (2013).
In addition to education issues during past ten years Dr. Torsti has also ... [Download the CV in pdf]

Friederike Tschampa,
Deputy Head of Division EEAS Global Human Rights

Friederike Tschampa,
Deputy Head of Division EEAS Global Human Rights

Jacques Van Egten,
President of Confederation of European Senior Expert Services (CESES)

Jacques Van Egten is a civil engineer and holds a degree of Master of Business Administration. He started his professional career as product manager of high-end information systems connecting Banking institutions worldwide to the SWIFT network. He therefore travelled the world to assist Banks in adapting and integrating their payment systems to the SWIFT standards. He lived for 5 years in Australia, and thereafter created his own IT consulting company, focusing on change. He quickly was asked by non-profit organisations to support their strategic and organisational needs. From 2006 to 2010, he managed Exchange, a member of CESES, and thereafter became President of CESES. He is also a board member of Toolbox (www.toolbox.be), a nonprofit organisation aiming at supporting and improving the management structures of associations by offering volunteer professional senior consultancy, and president of Sireas, non-profit organisation in Brussels specialising in re-integration of young people into the workforce.

Herlinde Vanhooydonck,
Advisor MEP Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens)

Herlinde Vanhooydonck works as an advisor for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee. She has a longstanding experience working with and for civil society organisations, including through her previous position as advisor for the Employment and Social Affairs Committee as well as when she was working for Social Platform before joining Greens/EFA in the European Parliament.

Ioannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, President of the NCDP of Greece and Vice-President of the Diversity Europe Group (EESC)

Ioannis Vardakastanis was born in Zakynthos, Greece in 1957. He has been an active disability rights campaigner in Greece, Europe and across the world throughout his life. From 2010 until now, he is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) representing the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece (N.C.D.P.) in Group III. Vardakastanis holds the office of one of the Vice - Presidents of Group III. He has been the President of the N.C.D.P. since 1993, which is the umbrella organization of the Greek disability movement. Also, he has been the President of the European Disability Forum (EDF) since 1999. Since 2007 he has been the EDF representative in the International Disability Alliance (IDA), where from 2010 to 2012 he held the position of the Vice-Chair and from 2012 to 2014 the position of the Chair. Today he holds the office of IDA Treasurer.

Dana Verbal,
DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission

Dana Verbal is part of a team focusing on social entrepreneurship at the DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission. She is working on measures that enable access to finance for social enterprises and the development of social finance markets in Europe, as well as on measures aiming at enhancing the visibility of social enterprises.
Previously, Ms. Verbal dealt with the implementation of the European Social Fund in Romania, in particular with the measures focusing on employment and social inclusion. She also has experience on managing the implementation of ESF projects which she gained while working for the Public Employment Service in Trieste, Italy.
She studied International Economics at the Academy of Economic Studies of Bucharest (Romania) and received her PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Trieste (Italy).

Susanne Westhausen,
President of Cooperatives Europe

Susanne Westhausen is the president of Cooperatives Europe, elected by its General Assembly in September 2021. In addition to holding this post, since 2007, Susanne has also been CEO of the Danish cooperative employers' organisation Kooperationen, Denmark’s national umbrella organisation for cooperatives. During that time, her main interests have been exploring and sharing the fantastic powers of the cooperative movement and the model's ability to be a positive and real game-changer for people in times of need.

Katy Wiese,
European Environmental Bureau

Katy Wiese works for the EEB as a Policy Officer for Economic Transition and Gender Equality. She is working on economic transition policies, advocating for a feminist economic system centred around care and wellbeing for planet and people. Previously, she has been working for different renewable energy development projects in West and East Africa and as technical consultant for a social impact consulting firm in Berlin, Germany. She has also been investigating gendered impacts of environmental policies in the Global South and Europe, publishing scientific articles on that nexus.

Regita Zeila,
Director of Social Director of Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia

Regita Zeila has led the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia since 2020. She is a social impact professional and an advocate for community involvement and growth. She works to develop the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latvia, and is passionate about the social economy concept.

Worked as business analyst for an innovation management consulting firm in Boston, MA, engaging in consulting projects. Personally interested in antiques, old maps, and ethnography.

Jana Žůrková,
Network Development and Innovation Manager at RREUSE

Jana Žůrková holds a master's degree in waste use and management from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague. After working as a Research Assistant and Project manager at SYNCOM, a consulting company assisting industry and science in the field of Research and Development, in 2016 she joined RREUSE. Ms Žůrková's role at RREUSE has been to facilitate the exchange of experience and know-how among social enterprises working in the fields of re-use and repair, network capacity-building, boosting re-use business models and innovation. Alongside her professional career, she has been a volunteer in Tournevie, the Brussels non-profit tool library, which fights over-consumption by sharing quality tools and promoting DIY culture.