Founding Members

Symeon ZAMBAS

graduated from the Hellenic Air Force Academy and joined the Cyprus Air Force in 1993. From 31 July 2009 to 28 February 2014 he served at the Defence Policy and International Relations Directorate of the Cyprus Ministry of Defence in the EU Council Presidency of Cyprus team. During this period he designed the CSDP Olympiad and organised the first CSDP Olympiad in Cyprus. He served twice as a CSDP Orientation Course Director and was also the Director of the fourth CSDP High-Level Course module 2013–14. He has been a member of the Implementation Group of the European Initiative for the Exchange of Young Officers, inspired by Erasmus and a member of the ESDC Executive Academic Board since 2009. He was appointed chairperson of the Strategic Communication and editor of the Newsletter on the Military Erasmus initiative from 2012 to 2014.

He has been the Military Training Manager of the ESDC from March 2014 until February 2020 and in this capacity he coordinated the Military Erasmus Initiative, he was the co-creator of the CSDP Doctoral School in 2017 and the creator and first chairman of the EU Military Secondary Schools Forum since 15 October 2019.

He is the co-Founder and first President of the European Citizens Association since 5th February 2020.

Since March 2020 he is back to the Cyprus Ministry of Defence as Director of Security and Defence Academy.

Daniel FIOTT

is Security and Defence Editor at the EU Institute for Security Studies. He is also a Visiting Professor on European security at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the University of Kent. He was educated at the University of Cambridge and he completed his doctoral studies at the Free University of Brussels (VUB).

Petteri TAITTO

Petteri Taitto
(Master of Education, LtCol G.S.) is independent consultant providing coaching, mentoring and advising for security authorities, emergency response and peace support. Taitto has earlier held positions in the European External Action Service, as operation planner and as the training manager responsible for EU CSDP Mission related training programs at the European Security and Defence College. His other earlier appointments include such as Principal Scientist at the Laurea Unversity, CMCFinland Head of Training, Principal Lecturer at the Emergency Services College, and various assignments in Finnish Defence Forces, including teacher at the National Defence University. He is EU Civil Protection expert since 2006, and served several  times in NATO and in United Nations missions. His publications include articles on EU Integrated Approach, Cyber security, CSDP capability development, and training and education methodologies.

Sofia MENEZES

works at the Military Academy, Portugal, as Assistant Professor in the Department of Administration and Leadership, and was awarded a PhD in History, Defence and International Relations from the University of Lisbon and Academia Militar. Sofia is Section Coordinator of the Leadership: People and Organizations master’s degree and also Erasmus Coordinator. As a member of the board of CINAMIL (Military Academy Research Center) she is in charge of Communication and External Relations. Apart from being engaged in projects in the fields of Gender Mainstreaming and Emotional Intelligence, Sofia also gives training in Communication and Development of Soft Skills. Currently, she is taking an MSc in Sciences on Emotions. Part of her hobbies is acting and playwriting.

Dirk DUBOIS 

At the age of 18, Dirk Dubois joins the Belgian Army in 1981. He graduates from the Royal Military Academy after 4.5 years with a Master degree in Social and Military Sciences. The first part of his career he spends in operational units as a field artillery officer and as an instructor and staff officer at the Belgian Artillery School.

During this part of his career, he is deployed abroad on several occasions. During one of his operational deployments, he serves as a liaison officer with UN, EU and local civilian authorities. He learns first-hand how civilian and military efforts can supplement each other to achieve a better result than when they each operate independently.

In 2004, Dirk Dubois starts a second phase in his career as he joins the Belgian Defence Headquarters and becomes a member of the team responsible for the development and follow-up of the strategic management objectives for the Belgian Defence.

When this team is reorganised in 2007, he seizes the opportunity to apply for a position as training manager of the European Security and Defence College. During this time, he organises numerous courses and is actively engaged in the launching of the European initiative for the exchange of young officers, better known as ‘Erasmus militaire’.

He occupies this function until 2012, when he returns to the Belgian Defence Headquarters in the Directorate-General for Education as head of the division responsible for external relations in the field of education, both on a national side and with relevant partner countries. This post allows him to take up the job of chairperson of the Implementation Group for the European initiative for the exchange of young officers, inspired by Erasmus in the summer of 2013. The experience gained with the initiative also enables him to further develop the recognition of the qualifications of the military personnel by the civilian authorities at a national level.

In 2014 he applies for the position of Head of the European Security and Defence College and is appointed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to take up this position on April 1st 2015. In December 2017, the EU Member States decided by consensus to prolong his mandate until 2022. On 31 August 2022, his contract as Head of the ESDC  ended and he now enjoys retirement. He remains active as a volunteer in the European Citizens Association and in Natuurpunt, a Belgian environmental association.

In December 2017, Dirk Dubois was granted the right to wear the Golden Ring of the Theresan Military Academy (Austria), in recognition of his contribution to the internationalization of the Academy. In 2020, the Chair of NATO Military Committee appoints him as a member of the NATO Defence College’s Advisory Academic Board. In September 2021 he is awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of the Vasil Levski National Military University of Bulgaria in recognition of his significant contribution to military science and European higher military education.

Dirk lives in Antwerp together with his wife Sabine, who teaches biology at high-school level. They have two daughters and two granddaughters.

Harald GELL

Colonel Assoc. Prof. Hon. Sen. PhD (habil.), MSc, MSD, MBA

He has been the EU Military Erasmus (EMILYO) Implementation Group’s chairman since 2015 and Head International Office & Senior Lecturer at the Austrian Theresan Military Academy.

He combined in 105 publications, 21 scholar books & several module descriptions and some 100 international conference-presentations findings of stress research projects with international exchanges to propose effective and efficient increasing of military leadership skills and competences. With his Habilitation proceeding in Military Management he proofed evidence that international exchanges have positive effects onto Officer Cadets’ personal developments.

His mission & operation experience reaches from a security operation during the Slovenian War of Independence, deployments for disaster relief and border security, EU Team Leader in Bosnia and Croatia, UN Chief Operations Officer in Syria to some 350 activities in EU Countries, Canada, Ukraine, and the United States.

He is scientific boards’ member in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Poland.

Sylvain PAILE-CALVO

is a Senior Researcher at the European Studies Unit of the University of Liège (ULiège, Belgium) since 2006, working on defence (defence higher education) and security (non-proliferation of arms and weapons of mass destruction).

He notably built the foundations of the « Military Erasmus » and of the « European Doctoral School on the Common Security and Defence Policy » initiatives and collaborates with the European Security and Defence College for their implementations and for designing other actions that contribute to the enhancement of a common strategic culture at the European level.

He also manages or participates to cooperation and outreach programmes of the European Union aimed at consolidating third countries’ capacities and resilience vis-à-vis CBRN threats and proliferation of arms and weapons of mass destruction worldwide.

Ilias D. KATSAGOUNOS

Proven 25 years experience in personnel development, team building and operational capacity enhancement and fervid advocate of the “lateral thinking” approach in all aspects of the decision making procedure.

He  hold a Masters Degree in techno-economic systems and a Ph.D. diploma, for conducting research on a hybrid approach of judgmental forecasting on special events by combining training of superforecasters-to-be via the concept of a modified version of structured analogies. His research is primarily based on the outcomes of the ‘Good Judgement Project’ that was launched by IARPA a few years ago and aimed at providing viable solutions to the Corporate world, by enhancing the decision making process through the provision of more accurate probabilistic forecasts, while taking under consideration the pragmatic scarcity of resources and available information.

He is a certified Project and Risk Management Professional providing his services, for more than 10 years, at various public and private sector companies as an instructor/consultant in the aforementioned fields of expertise.

Αthanasios ATHANASIOU

is currently a Brussels correspondent for the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CYBC) and the Cyprus News Agency (CNA). He has been reporting on European Affairs since 2004 with the Hellenic State Television and Radio, the RealMedia S.A and Star TV Greece, extensively followed the sovereign debt crisis in the aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008 and reported on the reformation of the European Financial Architecture, the bailouts of Greece and Cyprus, as well as EU accession negotiations with Turkey, the terrorist attacks on EU soil and the UK withdrawal agreement talks.He holds a PhD in Sociology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, on “Religion and Particularity – The meaning of Religion and Christianity in the Japanese Society”, ΜΑ in Sociology of Relgion from the same University and has been a fellow  of the Egawa laboratory of the Tokyo institute of technology (VALDES , graduate school of Decision science and Technology, University of Tokyo, 2005 – 2010) and the Interculturalism, Migration, Minorities, Research Center (IMMRC lab), in Brussels for the same period.

Hans –  Bernhard, WEISSERTH

was the Head the European Security and Defence College until he retired in April 2015.

Coming from the CSDP Task Force in the Policy Unit of the former High Representative (HR) for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, he was responsible for the development and establishment of the ESDC since the very beginning in 2005. Since 2011, he was working in the European External Action Service/Crisis Management and Planning Directorate and in 2013 he was officially appointed by the HR Catherine Ashton as Head of the ESDC.

Before taking up his post in the Policy Unit of Javier Solana in November 1999, he was a career General Staff Officer (German Armed Forces); he graduated from Bundeswehr University in Munich (Education & Sciences), the General Staff Officer Course at the Führungsakademie in Hamburg (1984- 1986) and the Hogere Krijgsschool in The Hague (1988-1990), and subsequently performed various planning functions at operational and strategic level. Since 1993, he has performed various functions in the field of European Security and Defence Policy at different levels: Western European Union Planning Staff in Brussels (1993-1996); Assistant National Military Representative to WEU and NATO in Brussels (1996-1998); German Ministry of Defence Policy Division in Bonn and Berlin (1998/1999).

Foteini ASDERAKI

is a Professor of European Integration Theory and European Education Policy at the Department of International and European Studies, University of Piraeus, Greece. She holds a PhD with distinction in Political Sciences issued by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her thesis was awarded the Honorary Grant of the National Bank of Greece in memorial of Theodoros Karatzas by the Hellenic University Association for European Studies in 2008. She is currently the Chair of the European Doctoral School for the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Security and Defence College, European External Action Service, in Brussels (2019-2021). She holds a Jean Monnet Chair on European Union’s Education, Training, Research and Innovation Policies awarded by the European Commission. She has been the academic coordinator of several European programmes.

Georgios GEORGIOU

was the Head of the Defence Policy and International Affairs Directorate at the Ministry of Defence and General Coordinator for issues concerning the Presidency of the Council of the EU at the Ministry of Defence during 2012. He served as a Helicopter Pilot, Medium-Artillery Unit Commander, Staff Officer, Director within various Staff Offices of the Artillery Command-Division and of Branch “C” of the National Guard General Staff. In addition, he served as liaison officer between the National Guard and the British Forces, and the United Nations Forces based in Cyprus, and also served as Coordinator of the National Guard, within the Operation Centre of the Republic of Cyprus, during the Lebanon crisis. Mr. Georgiou is a graduate of the ESDC High Level Course, Army Helicopters Academy, Artillery Academy and of the Hellenic Military Academy Evelpidon.