Experts & Staff

Mark Leonard


Languages: English, French, German
Areas of Expertise: Geopolitics and Geoeconomics; China; EU-Russia relations; transatlantic relations; EU institutions; public diplomacy and nation branding; UK foreign policy

Mark Leonard is co-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the first pan-European think tank. His topics of focus include geopolitics and geoeconomics, China, and EU institutions. 

Leonard writes a syndicated column on global affairs for Project Syndicate.Previously he worked as director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform and as director of the Foreign Policy Centre, a think tank he founded at the age of 24 under the patronage of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In the 1990s, Leonard worked for the think tank Demos where his Britain™ report was credited with launching Cool Britannia. Mark has spent time in Washington, D.C. as a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and in Beijing as a visiting scholar at the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences.

He was Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geoeconomics until 2016.

Honoured as a “Young Global Leader” of the World Economic Forum, he spends a lot of time helping governments, companies, and international organisations make sense of the big geo-political trends of the twenty-first century. He is a regular speaker and prolific writer and commentator on global issues, the future of Europe, China's internal politics, and the practice of diplomacy and business in a networked world. His essays have appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs, the Financial Times, the New York TimesLe MondeSüddeutsche ZeitungEl PaisGazeta WyborczaForeign Policy, the New Statesman, the Daily TelegraphThe EconomistTime, and Newsweek.

As well as writing and commenting frequently in the media on global affairs, Leonard is author of two best-selling books. His first book, Why Europe will run the 21st Century, was published in 2005 and translated into 19 languages. Leonard's second book, What does China think? was published in 2008 and translated into 15 languages. He has published an edited volume on Connectivity Wars and is working on a forthcoming book on the same topic. 

Latest from Mark Leonard

  • Cover: Harnessing artificial intelligence

    Harnessing artificial intelligence

    In the final episode of ECFR’s special summer series on European strategic sovereignty, Mark Leonard talks to Ulrike Franke, ECFR Policy Fellow, about artificial intelligence (AI). Mark asks Ulrike, who is currently on leave at the University of Oxford studying AI, where Europe stands compared to the United States and China in harnessing this promising new technology. More specifically, they look at the ingredients needed to develop good AI (talent, data and hardware) and ask to what extent Europe has them. The two end with a number of recommendations for Europe’s leaders as to what it can do to catch up with frontrunners US and China.

    The podcast was recorded Monday, July 15, 2019.

    Picture retrieved from pixabay: 

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    Cover: Protecting Europe against hybrid threats

    Protecting Europe against hybrid threats

    In the third episode of ECFR’s summer series on strategic sovereignty, Mark Leonard talks to Gustav Gressel, Acting Director of the Wider Europe programme and Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR, about hybrid threats. Using Gressel’s recent paper on hybrid threats as a starting point, they discuss all elements of hybrid warfare: from sponsored proxy groups to propaganda war, and from economic pressure to cyber attacks. Importantly, they ask what impact hybrid warfare might have on European sovereignty.

    This podcast was recorded on Friday, 12 July, 2019.

    Cyber warfare specialists serving with the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Cyberspace Operations Group engage in weekend training at Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.
    Public domain. Retrieved from:…-on-capitol-hill/

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    Cover: Meeting the Challenge of Secondary Sanctions

    Meeting the Challenge of Secondary Sanctions

    The second episode of ECFR’s summer series on strategic sovereignty explores the critical challenge that secondary sanctions pose for Europe, due to the Trump administration’s maximalist position on Iran. Joining Mark Leonard for a lively discussion of economic statecraft are Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at ECFR, Henry Farrell, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. They discuss how Europe could reduce its vulnerabilities to U.S. secondary sections, which – in the future - could target countries that are more important to the European economy, such as China and Russia. 

    This podcast was recorded on Tuesday, 23 July 2019.

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    Cover: Building Europeans’ Capacity to Defend Themselves

    Building Europeans' Capacity to Defend Themselves

    Mark Leonard launches ECFR’s special summer series on European sovereignty with a discussion of the continent’s security and defence policy. He is joined by Nick Witney, a senior policy fellow at ECFR with a wealth of experience in diplomacy and defence strategy. Witney discusses how today’s strategically-divergent Europeans can collectively bolster their defence capabilities to offset new pressures from Russia and the southern border as well as reduce their reliance on the Americans.

    This podcast was recorded on Friday, 12 July 2019.

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    Cover: The EU’s New Top Personnel

    The EU's New Top Personnel

    This week, ECFR director Mark Leonard discusses the new faces of the European Council: from Ursula von der Leyen to Josep Borrell, these are the figures who will lead Europe over the coming years. Mark is joined by an all-star cast from four ECFR offices across Europe.

    Wes Mitchell: Perhapsburg (American Interest)
    Francis Fukuyama: Identity
    John Mearsheimer: The Great Dillusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities
    Alexandros Yannis: Chimera: A Novel
    Luuk von Middelaar: Alarums and Excursions – Improving Politics on the European Stage
    Parag Khanna: The Future is Asian
    German philosophy about Europe from Immanuel Kant to Jürgen Habermas
    Robert Menasse: Die Hauptstadt
    ECFR: Strategic sovereignty: How Europe can regain the capacity to act

    The podcast was recorded on 5 July 2019

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    Cover: European Economic Sovereignty

    European Economic Sovereignty

    Mark Leonard was joined by Jean Pisany-Ferry, co-founder of Bruegel, Guntram Wolff, director of Bruegel and Jeremy Shapiro, Research Director at ECFR. This week ECFR published a paper on how Europe can regain the capacity to act. Mark and his guests, inspired by the tenor of this new publication,  discussed the concept of European Economic Sovereignty on this latest episode of Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes.

    The podcast was recorded on Thursday, 20 June 2019.


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    Cover: Europe and the US-Iran escalation

    Europe and the US-Iran escalation

    Mark Leonard is joined by Ellie Geranmayeh, deputy head of ECFR’s MENA programme, Hossein Mousavian, former Iranian diplomat and scholar, and Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and former Pentagon official. They explore the latest development around the JCPOA, the European and Iranian point of views, and scenarios for potential US-Iran escalation.

    The podcast was recorded on 14 May 2019.


    60 days to save the JCPOA by Ellie Geranmayeh 
    There Is Still Time for Diplomacy With Iran by Ilan Goldenberg and Elizabeth Rosenberg 
    It’s Time for the Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran to Talk by Hossein Mousavian and Abdulaziz Sager 

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    United States of Europe? Panel with German EU election candidates

    At the Humbold Symposium 2019 in Berlin, ECFR's director Mark Leonard moderated a panel discussion with Katarina Barley; German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection; Damian Boeselager, Vice-President of Volt Europa; Nicola Beer, General Secretary of the Free Democratic Party; Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament; Daniel Caspary, Chairman of the German CDU/CSU-delegation in the European Parliament. Among others, the panel discussed the Spitzenkandidaten process, new models of digital taxation, and what to do with Viktor Orban.

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