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BEPA - A Fresh Start

by Paola Colombo


On 9 March 2010 the College approved the reorganisation of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA). This followed a complete review of its mission and structure with the aim of bringing about a new organisational chart and fresh operational methods. The purpose of the reorganisation of the service is to adapt it to the President's and College's needs, to refocus its mission and the way it liaises with its principal constituents.

BEPA is the smallest autonomous Commission service with a unique interdisciplinary nature. It reports directly to the President and operates under his authority. This is a huge privilege, but also a huge responsibility. What also makes BEPA rather original in the Commission is that its mission, its task, is not so much linked to daily operations, as to developments and trends that are relevant to policy-making in the medium and long term.

The Bureau is composed of a professional team of advisers, policy analysts and support staff, with appropriate experience and a proven track record, in order to provide professional and targeted policy advice to the President and to the College.

Where does BEPA come from?

The origins of what is today known as BEPA go back to 1989, when the Forward Studies Unit was established by the European Commission as a small 'think tank' staffed with EU officials reporting directly to President Jacques Delors. The Unit's primary task was to monitor and evaluate European integration by studying long-term prospects and structural tendencies, basing itself particularly on a network of external contacts with research institutes specialised in long-term forecasting and planning.

In May 2000, Romano Prodi  changed the Forward Studies Unit into the Group of Policy Advisers (GOPA) under his direct authority, with new resources from within and outside the Commission. He entrusted it with four specific domains: economics, social affairs, foreign affairs, and dialogue with religions.

With the arrival of José Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission in 2004, the idea of having a group of dedicated advisers was not only maintained, but further improved. GOPA was restructured to better meet the needs of the new President. It was rebranded as the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), and was structured into three teams: political, economic and societal.

A new mission to respond to new challenges

Since 1989 the face of Europe has changed substantially. This has had a big impact on both the role of BEPA and the environment in which it operates, whether from an institutional perspective (new Treaty, new inter-institutional dynamics) or linked to evolving trends (global crisis, changing demands on the EU structure).

Against this background, BEPA will continue to carry out its core tasks, namely support and policy advice to the President on specific tasks, outreach to civil society, institutional activities in the field of ethics in science and new technologies, and pursuit of the dialogue with religions, churches and communities of conviction.

The studies, ethics, the links with think tanks, stakeholders, academia, civil society, churches and communities of convictions: all should be used to enrich policy, not as ends in themselves.

Hence, BEPA’s structure, the constituencies it addresses, and the delivery methods have now been reviewed and become more clearly focused. Of particular importance is the need to ensure a close cooperation and complementarity between the different services providing direct support to the President.

Indeed, the mission of BEPA is complementary to that of the President's Cabinet and to the Spokespersons' service (SPP). The Cabinet provides day-to-day management of the President's political activities, and the SPP is dedicated to media outreach. BEPA will complete this picture by providing support to the Cabinet on specific subjects, as well as policy advice of a more long-term nature, and by complementing the SPP's operations through its own outreach to civil society.

The Reorganisation: key features

A/ A New Structure

In order to reflect the above, BEPA's structure has been reorganised into two teams, replacing the three thematic areas, namely:

  • the "Outreach" team, which is divided into the following three sectors:
    • "European Dialogue" sector, which coordinates contacts with think-tanks and academia on general issues of European integration as well as contacts in the fields of culture and art,
    • "Global Dialogue" sector, which supports the Cabinet on external relations issues. This sector also ensures the general liaison with churches and communities of faith, in order to take into account the global dimension of inter-religious dialogue.
  • The "Analysis" team, which provides policy analysis and general or specific policy advice as solicited by the President and the Cabinet, in close liaison with similar structures in other Commission Services. It is also responsible for organising regular meetings between the President and the Cabinet on the one hand, and relevant experts and academics on the other. It notably manages the advisory bodies created for and by the President, and ensures support for the Chief Scientific Adviser and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies.

Last but not least, the Coordination Unit, which provides direct support to the Head and Deputy Head of BEPA, is in charge of coordination of horizontal and administrative activities.

B/ The Chief Scientific Adviser

In his investiture speech before the European Parliament, the President announced the creation of the office of a Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) "as part of a fundamental review of the way European institutions access and use scientific advice". The CSA will provide "proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery" to the President, and through him to the College. At the same time, the CSA will give the Commission regular updates on major scientific and technological developments which may have an influence on EU policies and the decision-making process. The CSA will report directly to the President while the administrative support will be provided by BEPA.

C/ External and Internal Expertise

The President and the Commission at large will require, in this second term, analytical work and constructive engagement with think tanks, research institutions and academia. BEPA should also play an important role in communication, both through the work of the President's speechwriters and through other means of communication, such as policy reports, papers, presentations and workshops. These should be directed in particular at researchers and opinion leaders, but also, on occasion, at the general public.

BEPA’s work is applied, policy-oriented and aims at relevant and timely production of information and advice. BEPA does not pretend to have detailed answers to all policy questions/problems. However, on top of its in-house capacity to provide analysis and advice, it offers the possibility to tap different sources of expertise and to facilitate the dialogue between the academic world and policy making. BEPA has well-established links with the major thinkers in Europe.

Indeed, BEPA draws on its group of experts and external and internal network of contacts to generate ideas and to contribute to its activities. In order to perform these tasks BEPA requires professionals of high reputation and expertise.

Of particular interest to the work of BEPA will be its capacity to react to changing policy scenarios with a high degree of flexibility. This will be achieved by including staff drawn from within and from outside the Commission on a temporary basis.

External input will continue to be obtained by establishing operational networking with selected policy centres and universities, and regular interaction with experts in different formats.

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Last update: 02/08/2012 | Top