Today, the European Commission adopted its first-ever Strategic Foresight Report, aiming to identify emerging challenges and opportunities to better steer the European Union’s strategic choices. Strategic foresight will inform major policy initiatives. It will support the Commission in designing future-proof policies and legislation that serves both the current needs and longer-term aspirations of European citizens. The 2020 Report presents the rationale for using foresight in EU policy-making, and introduces a comprehensive concept of EU resilience.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “In these challenging times, political leaders have to look wide and far ahead. This report shows the importance of resilience for a strong and lasting recovery. We aim to steer the necessary transitions in a sustainable, fair, and democratic manner.”
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of interinstitutional relations and foresight, said: “The pandemic has not only thrown a sharp light on our vulnerabilities, but has presented opportunities that the EU cannot afford to miss. It has also reaffirmed the need to make our policies evidence-based, future-proof and centred on resilience. We cannot expect the future to become less disruptive – new trends and shocks will continue to affect our lives. The first-ever Strategic Foresight Report therefore sets the scene for how we can make Europe more resilient – by boosting our open strategic autonomy and building a fairer, climate-neutral and digitally sovereign future.”
In light of the ambitious Recovery Plan for Europe, the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report considers EU resilience in four dimensions: social and economic, geopolitical, green, and digital. For each dimension, the report identifies the capacities, vulnerabilities and opportunities revealed by the coronavirus crisis, which need to be addressed in the medium- to long-term.
Embedding Strategic Foresight into EU Policy-making
Strategic Foresight helps improve policy design, develop future-proof strategies and ensure that short-term actions are coherent with long-term objectives. The Commission has relied on foresight for many years; it now aims to embed it into all policy areas, to exploit its strategic value. A first example is the recent Communication on Critical Raw Materials, with foresight helping boost the EU’s open strategic autonomy. Mainstreaming foresight will be achieved by:
- systematically conducting foresight exercises for all major policy initiatives;
- publishing forward-looking, annual Strategic Foresight reports, analysing emerging trends and challenges to inform our policy- and decision-making;
- supporting the development of foresight capacities in EU and Member State administrations; and
- building a collaborative and inclusive foresight community with EU and international institutions and partners.
The 2020 Strategic Foresight Report proposes prototype resilience dashboards to kick‑start discussions among Member States and other key stakeholders on how best to monitor resilience. These discussions can help identify and assess strengths and weaknesses at EU and Member State level, in view of emerging megatrends and anticipated challenges. It can help answer the following question: are we, through our policies and recovery strategy, making the EU more resilient?
- The 2020 Strategic Foresight Report and its successors will inform President von der Leyen’s annual State of the Union addresses and Commission Work Programmes. They will also feed into the forthcoming inter-institutional negotiations on our first-ever multiannual programming.
- The overarching Strategic Foresight agenda will chart EU political priorities and key initiatives in Commission Work Programmes, as well as major cross-cutting issues: such as the EU’s open strategic autonomy for a new global order; the future potential of green jobs and required skills; and the intersections of the green and digital transitions across policies.
- The annual European Strategy and Political Analysis System (ESPAS) conference in November 2020 will offer the opportunity to discuss the topic of next year’s Strategic Foresight Report and launch an EU-wide Foresight Network.
- The development of shared reference foresight scenarios to inform future policy debate, to ensure coherence across policies, and to serve as a shared, forward‑looking framework for policy proposals. This can also feed into the Conference on the Future of Europe.