Global Trends to 2030: Hard and soft power in a changing world

On 22 and 23 November 2017, the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) held its third yearly conference since the publication of its pioneering report ‘Global Trends to 2030: can the EU meet the challenges ahead?’ at the beginning of this legislative cycle.


Written by Leopold Schmertzing with Jennifer Liu, Jesse Carlier, Nada Alkhayat, Alexandra Friede, Davide Maistro, Carys Lawrie, Jeffrey Moxom, Brecht van Herzeele, Vagia Poutouroudi, Jesse Carlier, Rita Deliperi.

There is a saying in German that the third time something takes place it starts a tradition. On 22 and 23 November 2017, the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) held its third yearly conference since the publication of its pioneering report ‘Global Trends to 2030: can the EU meet the challenges ahead?‘ at the beginning of this legislative cycle. The topics covered on the second day – hosted by EPRS – were, however, anything but traditional. Experts discussed everything from the geopolitical implications of climate change to war in an age of artificial intelligence.

Parliament Vice President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP, Spain) opened the proceedings. After reminding participants of the many domestic and foreign challenges facing Europe, Valcárcel Siso emphasised potential ways to improve the resilience of European institutions and the European Union as a whole.

Alexander Stubb – The EU and the New World Order

Alexander Stubb , a former MEP and former Prime Minister of Finland, began by analysing the damage inflicted in 2016 on the liberalism that had led to creation of the post-Second World War international order and the integration of Europe after the end of the Cold War. Stubb then drew conclusions about the new world in which Europe needs to defend these liberal values and work against the surrounding power vacuums. During a conversation with Shada Islam, Stubb highlighted the difficulties of working with China and urged for more creativity in cooperation with Africa.

Future of strategic rivalry and war

In this first panel discussion, Jim Cloos discussed the evolution of warfare, especially in regard to new technology with Florence Gaub, Justin Vaïsse, Tomáš Valášek and Wolfgang Wosolsobe. Conflicts are likely to be more regional, longer, and more urban. They may take place simultaneously in a variety of ‘real world’ and ‘cyber’ battlefields. While killing might be based on algorithms far away from the decision-maker, the internet will bring conflicts into everyone’s daily life. In this context, the EU’s moral and strategic ambitions need to be kept high and our global strategy needs to be invigorated.

Geopolitics of Environmental Change

This next panel featured Jiri Burianek debating the possibility of catastrophic global temperature rise and its implications with François Gemenne, Katarzyna Zysk and Lukas Rüttinger, including on migration, the Arctic and peace building. In a time when the pressure of environmental change will throw into question such concepts as the nation state; decisive measures based on policy integration, resilience and prevention will decide the fate of humanity.

International rules in a ‘might is right’ world

Marietje Schaake (ALDE, Netherlands) led the discussion on the nature, role and value of international rules. Heather Grabbe, Christian Strohal and Simon Serfaty noted that the world has lost its global policeman. Europe needs to come to adulthood by defending human rights and the rule of law more rigorously both at home and abroad, while finding islands of cooperation with the other participants of the multipolar world.

Carl Bildt – global political scene today and tomorrow

Carl Bildt, diplomat and former Prime Minister of Sweden, stressed that the 21st century is similar to the 19th: a flux of challengers is rising and decaying, identity politics and nationalism are back, and the digital revolution can be compared to its industrial counterpart in its magnitude and in its political, economic and social consequences. In a world that might include big power conflict and slow and frustrating proxy wars, the EU will need to be much more agile and aware.

Geopolitics of an economically interdependent world

The panel, led by Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece) and featuring Daniel Gros, Juca Jahier, Mary Kaldor and Guntram Wolff, cast a critical eye on geopolitics. Identifying important trends, such as the growing mismatch between the nation state and new models of economic development, and the power of the EU to use its domestic conception as a foreign policy tool, the panel highlighted the overestimation of globalisation when it comes to trade and the tremendous importance of Africa.

NEWS from 2035: ESPAS Young Talent Network wrap-up

In the final part of the conference, under the heading ‘insights gained’, Cat Tully of the School of International Futures, led a simulation in which she interviewed ‘participants’ in the 2035 version of the ESPAS conference, played by three YTN members: Julien Crampes, Ramona Gabar and Sander Happaerts. This highly entertaining and intelligent foresight exercise demonstrated how the EU and the wider world are coping with new trends in climate change, communications and democracy.

The Way Ahead

The final panel was chaired by James Elles and included Jim Cloos, Ann Mettler, and Klaus Welle. All panelists expressed their enthusiasm regarding the ESPAS conference and envisioned a Europe that has the capacity to protect values and prioritise long-term interests against short-term gains. The EU is a trading powerhouse and champion of a rules-based order, and must be able to cope with near future challenges, such as artificial intelligence and new forms of populism.

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