Did you know that the EU brings people together to work across borders and protect you and millions of other citizens? Whether they’re preparing to rush to the scene of an emergency in the blink of an eye, researching the cure for a mysterious condition, or working to make your area a little greener; together these ordinary heroes make Europe a better place to live.  

Coordinated by the EU, they protect your homes, friends, families and jobs, and these are their stories.

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Peter Bombay

Transport & Mobility department, European Commission


Peter has chaired the EU Air Safety List since 2012. The list includes all airlines that are banned from operating in Europe. He was previously the EU representative to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the main negotiator for the European Common Aviation Area Agreement. Prior to working at the European Commission, Peter was a foreign policy advisor to the Minister-President of Flanders. He holds a master’s degree in Law, a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a post-graduate diploma in European Administrative Studies.

Geert Lamsens

Eurocontrol – the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation


Geert started out in the military but later moved into civil aviation, working as a flight dispatcher. In 1994 he joined the flight planning department of Eurocontrol, the European organisation working to ensure safe and seamless air traffic management. There, he later advanced from an operator correcting flight plans to his current role as senior network operations supervisor. “Aviation has fascinated me since I was a little child”, he says.

Dr Greet Schoeters

University of Antwerp


Greet is a professor of environmental health at the University of Antwerp and the project leader for environmental health at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research. She co-ordinates the European Human Biomonitoring Programme, a project funded by the EU to better understand exposure to chemicals and how different hazardous chemicals affect our health.

Jan Baele

Health & Food Safety department, European Commission


Jan is part of the European Commission unit in Brussels responsible for coordinating and managing the Food and Feed Safety Alerts (RASFF) system across EU countries. This system allows EU countries to exchange valuable information about dangerous food and take urgent measures whenever a cross-border food alert is issued.

In 2018 Jan and RASFF teams across the EU dealt with about 4,000 alerts and notifications. 

Hans Martens

EU Insafe Network of Safer Internet Centres


Hans is European Schoolnet’s Digital Citizenship Team and Programme manager. He acts as the EU Insafe network coordinator and leads the Better Internet for Kids project. Hans has a background in research and teaching at the University of Antwerp, and has advised various Flemish, European, and American media literacy networks and projects. As Insafe network coordinator, he liaises closely with our Hero 1, Deborah from the SIC in Malta, as well as her counterparts across the EU. Part of Hans’ work is to make sure all the centres are briefed on and prepared for new emerging trends and threats, so they can help children and parents quickly and effectively.

Nabila Mazouz

Community Speaker


Nabila is a mother from Antwerp who took it upon herself to de-radicalise her son after he attempted to reach Syria at 17 years old. Since then, she has founded her own organisation and speaks publicly against radicalisation and extremism. Nabila works closely with the EU-wide Radicalisation Awareness Network, so that community organisers and practitioners across Europe can raise awareness of the issue and ensure other young people do not fall victim to the same fate as her son.

Dries Boodts

Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre – Oostende


Dries is deputy nautical director at the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) based in Oostende, Belgium. He has been working there since 2014. On 13 August 2017, Dries’s team received the Belgian yacht’s distress signal via Galileo and ensured that MRCC Lisbon – the nearest rescue centre to the yacht – had received the alert and was taking action. Dries has a master’s degree in nautical sciences from the Antwerp Maritime Academy.

Xavier Maufroid

Galileo Search and Rescue Service, European Commission


Xavier has worked on the Galileo Search and Rescue (SAR) satellite programme at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, since December 2007. He was instrumental in setting up Galileo’s SAR infrastructure, which was used in the rescue-at-sea mission off the Portuguese coast in August 2017. Xavier has a master’s degree in space technology from the National School of Aeronautics and Space in Toulouse, France.

Dr Ramadan Jashari

European Homograft Bank


Ramadan completed his medical studies in Rijeka, Croatia, and his general surgical training in Zagreb, Croatia and was later trained in cardiac surgery in Aalst and Leuven, Belgium, completing this with the European Cardiac Surgery Exam (FETCS) for the Board of EACTS (European Association of Cardio-thoracic Surgery). He joined the European Homograft Bank (EHB) in Brussels, Belgium in 1997 where he has been the medical director since 2008. The EHB prepares, stores and distributes quality-controlled heart valves among over 80 hospitals in several European countries. As part of ESPOIR, the EU’s pulmonary valve transplant clinical trial, the EHB selected prepared and evaluated morphologically and functionally the human heart valves before sending them to Corlife for decellularisation.

Iris Naert

Training Centre for Penitentiary Personnel


Iris is a Junior Director of the Training Centre for Penitentiary Personnel in Merksplas. She manages training programmes to detect radicalisation within prisons at an early stage and has recently worked on the EU-funded project, R2PRIS (Radicalisation Prevention in Prisons). Through training and development, prison staff – such as guards, psychologists, social workers and prison directors – can learn to identify the first signs of radicalisation in prisoners. Iris works together with other European colleagues to further improve the training programmes, and helps the EU protect its citizens against radical ideologies that conflict with the fundamental values of our society.

Bruno Terryn and Wim Tielemans

Foster Parents in collaboration with Minor-Ndako NGO


Bruno and Wim are architects living in Brussels. They are committed to helping young refugees who arrived in Belgium without their parents (unaccompanied minors). They are involved with Minor Ndako, a Belgian NGO that receives funds from the European Union to assist with the children’s placement. In 2017 they chose to open their own home to children in need. Now Wim and Bruno are themselves the foster parents of two kids.

Olivier Bogaert

Federal Police


Olivier Bogaert is responsible for Information and Communication Technology within the Federal Computer Crime Unit in the Belgian Federal Police. He cooperates with EUROPOL, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. Bogaert studied criminology and has worked at the FCCU since 1997, acting as the spokesperson for the unit since 2009. He has participated in numerous media productions in Belgium to raise awareness about cyber security, to promote a more careful approach to social media within Belgium and the EU, and to increase web users’ confidence online.

Jef Mottar

Belgian Federation of Food Banks


Jef Mottar has been active as a volunteer at the Belgian Federation of Food Banks since 2016. He first worked as a quality manager before being appointed CEO in July 2017. The Belgian Federation of Food Banks coordinates 9 centres in Belgium. The federation collects food and distributes supplies to its associations. The Food Banks receive an significant amount of food free of charge from the EU-initiative Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). They also receive donations from the food industry and from large companies in the distribution sector, as well as sourcing food from fruit and vegetable auctions and organising food collections.

Jessika Soors

Municipality of Vilvoorde


Terrorism knows no borders, but its roots are very local. Jessika chairs the working group for local authorities within the EU-led Radicalisation Awareness Network and coordinates local actions against radicalisation in Vilvoorde, Belgium. Since 2013, she has been working with citizens and the municipality to raise awareness of radicalisation and its various facets. She does this through campaigns that raise awareness of the issue among the public and ultimately help to prevent extremism at its root. Through collaboration with people at the local level, Jessika and her colleagues across the Europe-wide network help to keep us all safe.

Pierrette Nyssen



Pierrette is a bio-engineer and works for the nature conservation association Natagora. Under different EU-funded projects, Pierrette focuses on the study and protection of threatened species like bats. Thanks to projects funded through the EU’s LIFE and Interreg programmes, the prospects for these species are improving. In Wallonia and Brussels, the association has several nature reserves spanning over 4,800 hectares. Natagora aims to protect biodiversity and reach a balance between human activities and environmental protection.

Johan Bourlard



Johan Bourlard works as an expert in radicalism for Fedasil, the Belgian federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers. Johan is responsible for detecting signs of potential radicalisation in newly arrived refugees as well as sharing information on radicalisation with other authorities. He provides training sessions for staff members on how to recognise the signs of potential radicalisation. Johan is a member of the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), working across borders to provide knowledge and expertise to practitioners in other Member States who work to prevent terrorist activity in Europe.

Joëlle Chaussée

National Crisis Center (NCCN)


Joëlle Chaussée is part of a team that aims to counter terrorism and organised crime thanks to European laws on the use of personal data. Joëlle and her colleagues help EU countries cooperate and share vital data to reduce crime and keep us safer. Joëlle also represents Belgium in the European Training Group. With support from Europol and the European Commission, the Group helps EU countries share their best practices. In addition, Joëlle also uses her expertise to tackle one of the EU’s key security challenges, namely the introduction of interoperable IT systems across the continent so authorities in different countries can share information as efficiently as possible.