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What next for Europe? A new EU strategic foresight report

Written by Eamonn Noonan,

Europe can no longer take prosperity, stability, or even democracy for granted. Fundamental changes in technology, in relations between and within continents, and not least in climate, demand vigorous responses. Challenges and Choices for Europe, a new report by the EU’s European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS), looks closely at the tasks that lie ahead.

The key European institutions, including the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, jointly examine global trends through an informal network, ESPAS. They have now published a major report offering a forensic and fast-moving tour of the future. It does not minimise the challenges ahead – such as the disastrous consequences of a rise of 1.5 degrees in global temperatures. Yet the report is neither despairing nor defeatist.

A three-cornered comparison with the US and China gives a bearing on Europe’s prospects. By economic size, the EU ranks alongside them as part of a G3. Will this still be the case in 2030? If Europe is left behind in the race for breakthrough technologies, many vulnerabilities will arise. Europe will also need to adapt to having a smaller and older population than other continents. At the same time, a new constellation of defence and security threats is emerging; what capacities and capabilities are necessary?

An embedded culture of democracy, underpinned by the rule of law and by codified individual rights, has driven the rise of Europe. Remarkably, these are now contested, even within. As the ESPAS report points out, democratic renewal and stronger social cohesion promise better economic outcomes and greater resilience to external threats.

Europe has advantages – and one of the greatest is the resourcefulness of its people. Talent is distributed evenly – but opportunity is not. More than most, Europe works to overcome this handicap by ensuring that education is for all, not just a privileged few. The ESPAS report stresses the need to go further, to reach a level of education and training suited to the 21st century.

Europe is also remarkable for its diversity of languages, cultures and beliefs. At a time when some seek to demonise diversity, we need to see it as a powerful resource, as Europe rethinks and redesigns its global role.

The ESPAS report was written by Florence Gaub of the EU Institute of Strategic Studies, with input from the EPRS Global Trends Unit and other parts of the ESPAS network.

Read the complete report Global trends to 2030: Challenges and choices for Europe.

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