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College read-out on the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 8 september 2021.

Good afternoon and welcome,

It is my pleasure to inform you about our first College meeting, following the summer break.

Now let me turn to our second annual Strategic Foresight Report, which was adopted today, so it can inform the upcoming Commission Work Programme and setting of priorities. You may recall that last year's report focused on resilience as a new policymaking compass. We showed what the pandemic had taught us about Europe's resilience across four dimensions: green; digital; social and economic; and geopolitical.

This year's Communication zooms in on the geopolitical dimension of resilience. We asked ourselves what it means to take the EU's open strategic autonomy and global leadership to the next level in an increasingly multipolar global order.

We first looked into four structural megatrends, which will have a major impact on the EU on its path towards 2050, namely: climate change and other environmental challenges; digital hyper-connectivity and technological transformations; pressure on democracy and values; and lastly, shifts in the global order and demography.

In this context, we then identified ten areas where EU action could enhance our open strategic autonomy and global leadership, giving us the best possible chance of achieving our long-term policy objectives, like reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

So, here's where we suggest to move into a higher gear: sustainable health and food systems; decarbonised and affordable energy; our capacities in data management, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technologies; the supply of critical raw materials; our first-mover global position in standard setting; future-proof economic and financial systems; skills and talents that match our long-term ambitions; our security, defence and space capacities; nurturing our global partnerships; and strengthening our public institutions.

As you can see, the ten identified areas are interconnected, and here is a couple of concrete examples.

First, to ensure the health of our citizens, we are building a European Health Union that invests in health workers, innovative care models, as well as new technologies and medicines. The EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) will use foresight to boost anticipatory threat assessments, market intelligence and horizon scanning. In addition, establishing or re-establishing production of some critical medicines in the EU, supported by innovation, could help compensate for possibly higher costs, as well as strengthen our leadership in green and digital pharmaceutical manufacturing. To make this sustainable, however, we need to secure sufficient supplies not only of decarbonised and affordable energy but also of critical components, without creating new dependencies on raw materials.

Second, to maximise the benefits of the space sector, the EU should take a strategic approach to its space infrastructure, and ensure autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space. Space technologies, together with artificial intelligence, offer a strategic means of countering and anticipating future threats, including cyber espionage. These technologies - already key to the functioning of critical infrastructure - are also important for the future of communications, Earth observation, manufacturing and security. Additionally, they are an essential ingredient of the twin transitions, while space mining could help us ensure a sustainable and diverse supply of critical raw materials.

Third, the EU is facing competition for first-mover advantage in standard‑setting, particularly in emerging technologies, such as blockchain, quantum and digital currencies, or batteries. With our competitors taking more assertive action in this area, the onus is on us to build on our excellent track record in setting de facto international standards. The ‘Brussels effect', whereby multinational corporations comply with EU-level regulation, combines with our leading role in global trade to boost international acceptance of EU standards. This in turn is crucial for our influence on the global order and our leadership on climate change, sustainability and the protection of fundamental rights.

To this end, the EU will further engage in active regulatory cooperation, ensuring a leading role in international standard setting organisations - so another tangible example how we aim to marry openness and autonomy.

As I have said on many occasions, strategic foresight is not a crystal ball. We cannot know what the future holds. But with a better understanding of the megatrends at play - and the related uncertainties and policy opportunities - we can make more ambitious strategic choices today in pursuit of our global leadership tomorrow, as we head towards 2050.

The pandemic has only strengthened the case for ambitious strategic choices - such as striking the right balance between autonomy and openness. The EU will not turn inwards, but will reinforce our global standing. Before I conclude, let me highlight another strand of our work - building our foresight capacities across EU institutions and our Member States.

Our EU-wide Foresight Network at Ministerial level - Ministers for the Future if you will - is up and running, while more Member States are preparing their national foresight strategies, like España 2050. This shows that strategic foresight has secured a firm place in our policymaking, and is no longer at arm's length from the political level.

Now what's next? Our 2022 Strategic Foresight Report will focus on a better understanding of the twinning between the green and the digital transitions - that is, how they can mutually reinforce each other, including through emerging technologies.

In the meantime, the Commission, in cooperation with Member States, is finalising its resilience dashboards as announced in our first Strategic Foresight Report. This work will also contribute to the evaluation of wellbeing beyond conventional economic measures like GDP, as GDP alone does not tell the whole story.

To conclude, let me stress again that our actions in the present can help shape a future that Europeans want and deserve. By clearly identifying ten policy areas to boost our open strategic autonomy and global leadership, I believe that this Strategic Foresight Report will help us keep our collective eye on the ball.


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