The first meeting of European Union “Ministers for the Future” and the launch of the EU-wide Foresight Network were two of the high points of the informal meeting of Ministers for European Affairs, which took place in Coimbra today, on the subject of the future.
The agenda for the informal meeting of the members of the General Affairs Council also included a presentation of the EU’s outermost regions (ORs) as laboratories for the future.
During the meeting, the EU-wide Foresight Network was launched at ministerial level. This initiative is aimed at reinforcing the foresight capabilities of the Member States and the European Commission so that they will be able to respond to current and future challenges, anticipate major trends, identify and take advantage of the best opportunities and thus design better public policies. The establishment of this network was warmly welcomed by the Member States at this meeting.
The first meeting of the “Ministers for the Future” was another of the high points of the event, which was held at the Convent of São Francisco in Coimbra. The EU “Ministers for the Future” - currently headed by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič - now hope that this will have been the first of many regular meetings of this group, which put the topics of open strategic autonomy and resilience on the table, two key points for the future of European policy.
At a press conference, Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, pointed out that “the new EU-wide Foresight Network, in conjunction with the meetings of the Ministers for the Future, will give us more time and space for discussion and opening up new horizons. This will make it possible to engage in forward-looking governance, face future crises more efficiently and detect potential problems more quickly.”
The European Commission and the representatives of the EU Member States that have outermost regions (Portugal, Spain and France) made a number of presentations during the meeting on how these regions can be true laboratories for the future of Europe.
Projects on sustainable tourism in the Azores, digital nomads in Madeira, renewable energy in the Canary Islands and the digital hub in Reunion Island were presented, symbolising the challenges and the potential these regions can offer to Europe as a whole, but also allowing lessons to be learnt, as well as best practices for preparing the future of the EU in key areas such as the twin climate and digital transitions.
Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, stressed that “the ORs have a potential strategic role in areas we have chosen as crucial to the future of the EU in the coming decade, as is the case of sustainable tourism, space, renewable energy and digital teleworking. The ORs have a place and a role in the future of the EU that we must be able to take advantage of”.
Family photo after the Informal Meeting for Ministers of European Affairs © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021 - António Pedro Santos/LUSA