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Board members

Janez POTOČNIK (SI) – Chairman

Janez Potočnik is the former European Commissioner for the Environment (2010-2014) and the former European Commissioner for Science and Research (2004-2010). Prior to this he was Minister Councillor at the Slovenian Prime Minister’s Cabinet from 2001 to 2002 and Minister for European Affairs from 2002 to 2004. He headed the negotiating team for the accession of Slovenia to the EU between 1998 and 2004. He holds a PhD in Economics.

Thierry DE L’ESCAILLE (BE) – Treasurer

Thierry de l’Escaille is Secretary General of the European Landowners’ Organization and Secretary General of the Friends of the Countryside (FCS).  In addition, he manages his family agricultural business which consists of the production of vegetables, sugar beet, wheat and flowers in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

Alexandra BRAND

Alexandra Brand is Crop Protection Regional Director for EAME at Syngenta. Prior to her current role, she was Chief Sustainability Officer of Syngenta where she led the Business Sustainability Group, and prior to that, Regional Director of Syngenta’s crop protection and seed operations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Before joining Syngenta, Alexandra held various positions in the BASF Group, including senior vice president of its global Animal Nutrition business unit, vice president of the Global Marketing Pharma Ingredients unit as well as chief of staff for BASF’s chief executive officer. Alexandra studied chemistry at the Technische Universität in Darmstadt, Germany, from 1990 to 1998 and completed her studies with a doctorate.

Christoph BÜREN (FR)

Christoph BÜREN is the current President of Vivescia. He is an agricultural entrepreneur from the Marne area of France and is a former Secretary General of the Association of French Wheat Growers (AGPB), former Director of ARVALIS (crops research institute) and Parmentine (a French potato company), former President of the European Landowners’ Organization and former Vice-President of the French farmers’ society, SAF-agriculteurs de France.


Paolo de Castro is an MEP and former Chairman of the European Parliament Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of which he is now shadow rapporteur.  He is a Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Agriculture Academy of Bologna, the Georgofili Agricultural Economics Academy of Florence, the Agriculture Academy of Pesaro and the National Academy of Treja. In addition, he runs the International Agricultural Policy Magazine edited by the Informatore Agrario in Verona.  From 1996 to 1998, he was economic advisor of Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Economic Advisor of the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Resources, Michele Pinto.

Pieter DE POUS (NL)

Pieter is a Senior Policy Advisor at E3G’s Berlin Office since April 2018. He has a masters degree in forest and conservation science fromthe University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. Previously he worked ashead of the conservation and environment department at NABU, the BirdLife partner in Germany, and also asEEB’s EU Policy Director where he led the EEB’s EU policy team and worked onenvironmental policies, as well as agriculture, energy, regulatory reform and trade.

Pierre-Olivier DRÈGE (FR)

Pierre-Olivier Drège is the current President of the European Landowners’ Organization. He is a counsellor of the president of Céréaliers de France, a group founded by French grain producers, involved in financing agro-business (UNIGRAINS), research in agronomy (ARVALIS), exports of grain, association of French wheat growers (AGPB). Pierre-Oliver Drège has been involved in many negotiations within the Common Agricultural Policy, as Chief of Cabinet of several French Ministers for Agriculture and as Director of the Department for International and Economical affairs in the French Ministry of Agriculture.


Ludwig Forrest is a senior programme coordinator at the King Baudouin Foundation. He´s been philanthropy advisor at the King Baudouin Foundation’s Centre for Philanthropy for the past 19 years providing information, guidance, and tailor-made help on strategic philanthropy to private donors, families, businesses, and professional advisers who wish to engage in public benefit initiatives. Helping donors and beneficiaries to find effective solutions for philanthropic intentions, and fostering and simplifying the European cross-border giving environment by promoting the Transnational Giving Europe network are his main objectives. Ludwig is highly involved at the European Foundation Centre, and is an advocate at national and EU-level and publicist and speaker/moderator at international conferences. He also organized and coordinated the three editions of the Philanthropy Day in Brussels and the first edition of the Spring of Philanthropy in 2017 gathering more than 1,500 people from Belgium and Europe interested in philanthropy.


Mella Frewen is the former Director General of FoodDrinkEurope, representing Europe’s largest manufacturing industry (2007-2021). Mella Frewen’s previous positions include Director for Government Affairs EMEA at Monsanto, Director of International Relations for Cerestar and earlier roles in the Ferruzzi and Eridania Bégin-Say Groups. She has a wide experience of relations with international institutions, with the institutions of the European Union and trade associations within the food chain, as well as with the agri-food and non-food, and chemical sectors.

Gerard GOVERS (BE)

Gerard Govers is vice rector of the Science, Engineering and Technology Group at KU Leuven. He has been director of the Arenberg Doctoral School –the doctoral school of Science, Engineering and Technology group–since 2010. He obtained his licentiate’s degree in science (geography) in 1981 and his PhD in geography in 1986. In 1989 he was hired as a member of the permanent research staff at what was then called the NFWO and, one year later, he became a part-time lecturer at KU Leuven. He has been full professor at KU Leuven since 2001.


From 1994 to the end of 2004, Corrado Pirzio-Biroli was the Chief of Staff of Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Franz Fischler. He was deeply involved in elaborating the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms of 1999 and 2003-2004, and also contributed to the first ever reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (2003). 

Prior to his post as Chief of Staff, he was EU ambassador in Vienna (1992-1994), EU Minister and Chargé d’Affaires in Washington (1988-1992), in charge of EFTA affairs (1985-1988), member of Commission President Thorn’s cabinet in charge of the EU budget (1982-1984), economic advisor at the EU delegation to the US (1978-1982) and principal administrator for development policies (1971-1978). Before joining the Commission, he was the Development Advisor to the Government of the Sudan, Khartoum (1969-1970), and Assistant Lecturer in Economics at the Institute of Social Studies (I.S.S.) in the Hague (1968). He holds a Doctorate in Economics and Business Administration and post-graduate diplomas from the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague in economic planning and industrial development programming, respectively.

Michael Prinz zu SALM-SALM (DE)

Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm has been chairman of the German Landowners’ Organization in Berlin and Vice President of the European Landowners’ Organization in Brussels since 1995. Previously, he served as President of the German Forest Owners Organization for 10 years and as President of VDP. Die Prädikatsweingüter, the association of wine estates in Germany for 17 years.
He is founder and managing partner of Salm-Salm & Partner GmbH, an investment and real estate consulting company with a focus on asset management and specialised in convertibles funds and investments in agriculture and forestry.


Koen Van Keer is a Sustainability Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Expert with Yara International (a global fertiliser company). His work focuses on EU agri-env policies and regulations dealing ao with fertilisers, circular economy and nutrient recycling, and soils. Prior to his current role he held various overseas positions in the fertilisers industry, and before that he was an academic field researcher. He holds a PhD degree in agronomy, and has a broad experience with soil science/management, crop nutrition, and cropping systems in temperate (Europe), dry (Middle East) and tropical regions (Asia).