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College read-out on the first-ever annual Strategic Foresight Report by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič

College read-out on the first-ever annual Strategic Foresight Report by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič 09 September 2020.

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Good afternoon,

Thank you very much for being here with us today.

The main topic of this read-out is our first ever-Strategic Foresight Report, but first let me take you through the points which we discussed during today's College meeting.

The College discussed three points.

Vice-President Schinas, as well as Commissioners Johannsson and Lenarčič, informed the College about the fires in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Let me express my sympathy with the people of Lesbos and in particular, the inhabitants of the camp and the workers there on behalf of the College.

President von der Leyen has asked Vice-President Schinas to go to Greece as soon as possible.

Secondly, the College discussed the follow-up it has given to the resolution of the European Parliament from May, asking the European Commission for a contingency plan in the case of non-agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework. It noted that it had responded to this resolution though the adoption of the Next Generation EU Recovery package

Then, Commissioner Hahn debriefed the College on the ongoing negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council on the MFF and Next Generation EU.

Finally, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell informed the College on the evolution of the international situation since the last time the College met.

Before moving to strategic foresight, let me address one pressing issue – which I have just discussed with President von der Leyen.

Yesterday, I had a phone call with Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, with whom I co-chair the EU-UK Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement.

I expressed our strong concerns and sought assurances that the UK will fully and timely comply with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

In this context, I will call for an extra-ordinary Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement to be held as soon as possible – so that our UK partners elaborate and respond to our strong concerns on the bill.


And now, on to our main topic.

The European Commission is the first major public administration to bring strategic foresight into the highest political level. And the coronavirus crisis has shown that this instinct was spot on.

Today, College has adopt its first-ever Strategic Foresight Report. Its timing has been chosen to inform President von der Leyen's State of the Union address.

The Commission has used foresight for many years, but until now it was used on a piecemeal basis and largely kept at arm's length from the political level. Why:

Because very often, political actors tend to focus on the short-term, prone to seeking quick fixes;

While strategic foresight challenges the status quo and focuses our minds on the next generation rather than the next election.

This Commission is set to exploit the strategic value of foresight.

Before I elaborate how we will do it, let me be clear: strategic foresight is not a crystal ball or science fiction.

The future cannot be predicted, especially in today's world of rapid, complex changes. New trends and shocks – like the coronavirus pandemic – will inevitably emerge and affect our lives.     

What does make sense, however, is to constantly keep an eye on the horizon – to spot early signs of emerging challenges; to assess their likelihood or risks; and to integrate this knowledge into our action.

This is what strategic foresight is about: anticipating, exploring and acting. And the third part – acting – is what makes foresight strategic. There must be a firm link with our political and policy work. 

We have no time to spare. The pandemic has thrown a sharp light on our vulnerabilities. But it has also presented opportunities that the EU cannot afford to miss.

So let me tell you what our Strategic Foresight Report says.

First, we start embedding strategic foresight into our policymaking. 

In other words, we will use it when preparing major initiatives across all policy areas. This will bring the long-term into the short-term political focus and ultimately, help us future-proof EU laws and policies.  

Take our first example, the Commission's recent Action plan on critical raw materials.

Strategic foresight complements the criticality assessment by providing the 2030 and 2050 outlook – both demand and supply risks – for strategic technologies and sectors.

This foresight knowledge feeds directly into our action plan to boost Europe's open strategic autonomy.

So using foresight strategically this can be a true game-changer.

In addition, we will launch an EU-wide foresight network with other EU institutions, Member States, think tanks, academia, civil society, and international organisations.

I believe my other hat – as Vice-President for interinstitutional relations – can help. Our ambition should be nothing less than to establish world-class anticipatory governance.

Second, today's report starts applying strategic foresight to resilience as one of the main lessons drawn from this pandemic.

Resilience is becoming our new policy compass and therefore, it takes centre stage in the report.

More concretely, we show what COVID-19 has taught us about Europe's green, digital, socio-economic and geopolitical resilience. For each dimension, the report identifies our vulnerabilities, strengths and opportunities exposed by this crisis – overall, it paints a picture of what needs to be addressed in the medium- to long-term.

To walk the talk on resilience, we must be able to monitor it. You will see that we are proposing to move towards resilience dashboards. Once fully developed in cooperation with the Member States and other key stakeholders, they should help us assess vulnerabilities and capacities at both EU and national level.

Ultimately, we need to able to answer one core question: are we, through our policies and recovery strategy, making the EU more resilient?

This broad approach to measuring and monitoring resilience should feed into an integrated approach to measuring people's wellbeing. The COVID-19 crisis has reignited the public debate on the importance of many aspects of the quality and sustainability of human life, such as education, income, jobs and health.

There has been a strong consensus in the international community on the need to go beyond conventional economic measures like GDP, and to make wellbeing a policy target. The EU wants to lead in this work.

Thirdly, the report outlines the next political programme for strategic foresight.  

Foresight will inform EU political priorities, major initiatives in the Commission Work Programmes as well as major cross-cutting initiatives, such as:

Open strategic autonomy: for instance, foresight could allow horizon scanning, including as regards international standardisation, to be used as a strategic lever by the EU;

The future jobs and skills linked to a green economy: for instance, an in-depth view of the labour market shifts driven by the green transition is still missing;

We will also explore how the green and digital transitions can rhyme better: for instance, by looking at energy consumption, we see that transferring and storing one gigabyte of data through the internet uses up to 7 kWh – compared to 0.000005 kWh if done locally. 

To sum up: First, we will collectively develop a world-class anticipatory governance system by embedding strategic foresight into our agenda-setting and policymaking: horizon scanning, mega trends analysis, reference scenario planning will apply to our major initiatives and foresight will become an integral part of our better regulation toolbox.  

Second, we start operationalising the concept of resilience as a compass, with an honest assessment of where Europe stands in terms of social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital resilience. We will also develop ways of monitoring our progress on resilience to make sure we are making the EU and its Member States more resilient. 

Third, we have outlined a clear political programme for foresight and in particular, three high-impact cross-cutting priorities for the coming months: open strategic autonomy, future of work linked to the green transition; and deepening the synergies between the green and digital transformations. 

Press contact

Susanne CONZE

+ 32 2 298 02 36



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