Speakers

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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.

Jamie Susskind

  • Barrister, author of Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech

Jamie Susskind is a barrister and the author of the award-winning bestseller Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (Oxford University Press, 2018), which received the Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book Prize 2019, and was an Evening Standard Book of the Year, a Prospect Book of the Year, and a Guardian Book of the Day. A past Fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, he studied history and politics at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating first in his year before turning to law.

Maarten de Groot

  • Project Manager for Bertelsmann Stiftung

Maarten de Groot is Project Manager in the Democracy and Participation in Europe Project of the Bertelsmann Stiftung as of June 2019. Prior to that, he worked as European Programme Officer for Democracy International (Jan.-May 2019), as Campaign Coordinator for The ECI Campaign (Nov. 2017-Dec. 2018), and he was Vice-President & External Relations Director in the board of AEGEE / European Students’ Forum (Aug. 2016-July 2017). He studied politics and philosophy in Utrecht, Kingston (Canada) and Amsterdam (Jan. 2010-Aug. 2016).

Bruno Kaufmann

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

Carsten Berg

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

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

Simona Pronckutė

  • Organiser of the first ECI registered "Fraternité 2020"

Simona Pronckutė was formerly a programme assistant for the European Politics and Institutions Programme at the European Policy Centre. She has also worked as an electoral analyst at VoteWatch Europe. Ms Pronckutė was an organiser of Fraternité 2020, the first-ever European Citizens’ Initiative. She has written extensively on participatory democracy and youth-related issues. She acts as an external expert to EU institutions on the European Citizens’ Initiative and is a board member of the European Citizens’ Initiative Campaign.

Assya Kavrakova

Assya Kavrakova is the Executive Director of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), an international non-profit organisation, based in Brussels, with a pan-European membership and 29 years of experience in EU citizens’ rights enforcement and civic participation in the EU decision-making process. Ms Kavrakova has more than twenty years of experience in senior management positions in the non-governmental sector including skills to manage diverse portfolios of projects and activities, excellent leading ability to manage international teams of experts and NGOs to ensure timely delivery of project outputs and outcomes and in-depth knowledge of EU Funding Rules and Procedures, European Citizenship, European Rights Framework, EU civic participation formal and informal mechanisms. Ms Kavrakova is currently the Project Manager of the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum and in the team working with Secretariat-General of the European Commission on developing and implementing this online collaborative platform.

Daniela Vancic

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

Dr Christian Huesmann

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

Petar Markovic

Petar Markovic is the director of the ECIT Foundation, the only think-tank in Brussels devoted exclusively to the research, advocacy and promotion of European citizenship. He holds a double PhD in political theory and political science from the Free University of Brussels and LUISS in Rome and now strives to put his academic work on transnational democratic innovations countering the democratic deficit of the EU such as the ECI into practice by advocating for citizen-led politics beyond the confines of nation states. Beyond the EU, he is also devoted to the Western Balkans and its democratization. Half-Slovenian and half-Montenegrin, he prefers to be called simply – European.

Luca Jahier

Luca Jahier has been the President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) since April 2018. He served as President of FOCSIV, the Italian Federation of non-Governmental Organization for the International Voluntary Service, and he is the founding member of the Italian Third Sector. Luca has previously worked with the CISV and other Italian and European NGOs that are active in the field of international cooperation. He is also the former President of the National Council of ACLI (2008-2012), a Christian association of Italian workers. He is a former journalist and an international political analyst, and he has numerous years of experience in social advancement development programmes in developing countries, mainly in Africa. He has been a member of the EESC since 2002, where he has worked extensively on the European Union’s social and cohesion policies, as well as on international issues.

Elisa Lironi

Elisa Lironi is the Senior Manager European Democracy, working at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) since 2015. She develops and leads ECAS’ European Democracy focus area by implementing EU projects and research studies related to Digital Democracy, Online Disinformation and Populism. She has been coordinating several projects from different EU programmes including Erasmus+, REC, Europe For Citizens and Horizon2020. She has recently co-authored the policy paper “Six Ideas for Rejuvenating European Democracy” from Carnegie Europe (2019) and her publications include “Harnessing Digital Tools to Revitalize European Democracy” for Carnegie Europe (2018), “EU Public Consultations in the Digital Age: Enhancing the Role of the EESC and Civil Society Organisations” (2017) for the EESC and  the “Potential and Challenges of E-Participation in the EU” (2016) for the European Parliament.

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

Caroline Vernaillen

Caroline Vernaillen is responsible for Democracy International’s Public Relations and Global Community Building. Among other things, she helps head the Campaign for a World Citizens’ Initiative – We the Peoples. The campaign aims to give citizens a voice in international decision-making, by allowing them to put items on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. Caroline also manages the International Democracy Community, an interactive platform for democracy activists, and helps organize the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, the world’s largest gathering of people working on direct democracy. She studied International Relations at the University of Leuven and Broadcast Journalism at the Erasmus University College Brussels. Before joining Democracy International in 2017, she worked for the Belgian Development Agency in Morocco and UNOPS in Switzerland.

Mireia Borrell Porta

  • Secretary for External Action and the European Union of the Government of Catalonia, member of the European Committee of the Regions: "Strengthening and structuring citizens' participation in the EU"

Born in 1985 in Balaguer, Catalonia. She holds Ph.D. in European Political Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE) European Institute. B.A. in Economics from the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and M.A. in European Political Economics from the LSE European Institute. Before assuming the position of Secretary for Foreign Action and the European Union, she was the Director General for Foreign Relations. Previously, she was a Teaching Fellow in European Political Economy at the LSE courses: The Political Economy of European Welfare States, as well as Interest Representation and Economic Policy in the EU. Winner of the European Institute’s Class Teacher Award 2018. She also was a Postdoctoral Research Officer at the University of Oxford - in a social policies program for UK families, and a Junior Auditor at Ernst & Young in Barcelona. Traineeship at the Directorate-General of Internal Policies, Committee of Regional Development, European Parliament. Guest speaker at the Glasgow Economic Forum 2018. She is publisher and collaborator of the economics and social affairs digital magazine ‘Ekonomicus’, as well as author and co-author of several publications on social economics, public health, welfare and family, and trade. Languages: Catalan, English, French, Spanish.

Nathan Gardels

Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of The WorldPost, co-founder and a senior adviser to the Berggruen Institute. He has been editor of New Perspectives Quarterly since it began publishing in 1985. He has served as editor of Global Viewpoint and Nobel Laureates Plus (services of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media) since 1989. These services have a worldwide readership of 35 million in 15 languages. Gardels has written widely for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine, U.S. News & World Report and The New York Review of Books. He has also written for foreign publications, including Corriere della Sera, El Pais, Le Figaro, The Straits Times (Singapore), Yomiuri Shimbun, O’Estado de Sao Paulo, The Guardian, Die Welt and many others. His books include At Century’s End: Great Minds Reflect on Our Times and The Changing Global Order. Since 1986, Gardels has been a Media Fellow of the World Economic Forum (Davos). He has lectured at the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Rabat, Morocco, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China. Gardels was a founding member at the New Delhi meeting of Intellectuels du Monde and a visiting researcher at the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow before the end of the Cold War. He has been a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, as well as the Pacific Council, for many years. From 1983 to 1985, Gardels was executive director of the Institute for National Strategy, where he conducted policy research at the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow, the People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, the Swedish Institute in Stockholm and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn. Prior to this, he spent four years as key adviser to the Governor of California on economic affairs with an emphasis on public investment, trade issues, the Pacific Basin and Mexico. Gardels is co-author with Nicolas Berggruen of Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism (University of California Press) and Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century, a Financial Times Book of the Year. Gardels holds degrees in Theory and Comparative Politics and in Architecture and Urban Planning from UCLA

Pablo Sanchez

Born in Barcelona in 1978, studied Political Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​the Sussex University and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He lives in Brussels since 2008. He has been responsible for campaigns European Federation of Public Service Unions and jointly responsible for the first successful European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) on the human right to water (www.right2water.eu). In September 2015 he was appointed Director of International Relations of the City Council until he returned to Brussels in 2017. Where he continues to campaign on several issues like tax justice, right to health or transparency.

Olga Kikou

Olga Kikou is Head of the EU office of Compassion in World Farming, an international organisation with offices and representations in nine European countries, the US, China and South Africa, dedicated to improving farm animal welfare, ending industrial animal agriculture and achieving sustainable food and farming. Having worked in international organisations in the non-profit sector and in research and planning, she has directed her efforts towards raising awareness on the importance of citizen participation. Olga has a long-time involvement in animal advocacy and is currently lobbying the EU Institutions on key interests concerning the interlinked areas of farm animal welfare, food and farming, raising the profile of these issues on the policy making agenda, by engaging with stakeholders, exploring synergies and developing joint strategies to influence policy in the above areas. Olga is also a substitute representative of the Citizens’ Committee for the End The Cage Age ECI.

Christophe Lefèvre

  • president of the ECI ad hoc group at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

Christophe Lefèvre, president of the EESC's ECI ad hoc group, is professionally active in the insurance sector and he is a member of the EESC Workers' Group in the Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT) and Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO) sections, as well as the EESC Permanent Group for Disability Rights. He is a member of the French Steering Committee of the Global Deal initiative, member of the board of several European think thanks like Confrontations Europe and President of the European Federation of Managers and Professionals of the Insurance Sector (AECA). He is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Deputy vice-president of the European Managers' Confederation (CEC) in charge of the Sectoral Federations and vice-president of the International Federation of Executives (CIC). Former National Secretary of the French Confederation of Management – General Confederation of Executives (CFE-CGC), in charge for the European and international affairs.