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Dear Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez,
Thank you for your clear and impactful words. As the España 2050 strategy recognises, we are facing an enormous array of challenges that demand a very different policy approach: climate change, new technologies, misinformation, demographic change, an unstable geopolitical landscape, and of course, a global pandemic.
Europe needs a resilient society; one that is able to react to, and cope with, new challenges, as the pandemic has shown.
As we cannot expect the future to become any less disruptive, strategic foresight can help us anticipate these profound changes, and ensure we are better prepared.
I therefore welcome España 2050 as an excellent example of how we should approach the use of strategic foresight, and a major contribution to our joint foresight efforts in Europe.
I am sure that the lessons we can draw from your work will act as a blueprint for other Member States in their effort to further develop their national foresight capabilities.
First, it is not too early to start thinking about 2050 – the future is a direct result of what we do today.
Second, that, in doing so, we should reject pessimism and embrace a positive narrative about how we face our common future. Our message to our citizens should be one of optimism for the future.
For instance, your strategy divides the Member States into 3 groups based on their performance in a number of economic, social and environmental indicators. It then highlights what Spain should do in the next 30 years to keep up with the highest performing group. And it uses past achievements, for instance Spain’s track record in improving its PISA results, as a basis to say that this ‘convergence scenario’ is within reach.
This leads me to the third lesson that we can draw from your work: that thinking long-term and embedding foresight into today’s policies requires a great deal of political commitment as well as careful planning.
One of the reasons why I am so keen on building foresight alliances throughout Europe, across EU institutions and Member States, is to join forces in overcoming these obstacles.
Your España 2050 strategy shows the way: it is ambitious and comprehensive, and focuses on nine challenges and priorities, that are highly relevant not just for Spain’s future, but for the future of all of Europe.
In this way, your plan also points to strong synergies between our respective work strands. In particular, I would stress three areas.
First, green jobs.
España 2050 focuses on better education and the up- and reskilling of the population to accompany the green and digital transitions.
New kinds of jobs will be created, and existing jobs will change and evolve. Many of these jobs will be green ones, in areas such as low-carbon and smart transport, sustainable agriculture and the circular economy.
For example, it could mean micro farmers producing food more sustainably, closer to where it is needed, or intelligence engineers fostering changes in consumption patterns to support the green transition.
This also means strong investment in up- and reskilling to support employees through their professional life. From helping young people enter the job market to ensuring new opportunities for those already in the workforce.
An example of this work came in May 2021, when we launched the EBA250 Academy under the umbrella of the European Battery Alliance, together with the Spanish Government, the EU Incubator, universities, trade unions and companies. The aim is to train up to 150,000 workers in Spain by 2025 to meet the fast-growing needs of the batteries ecosystem, so that our automotive industry can stay in the lead.
With this in mind, the Commission is currently exploring future scenarios for green jobs and skills needed for the transition, and how drivers of change might affect the skills of the future and our investment policies.
Second, resilience and wellbeing.
España 2050 aims to boost Spain’s collective resilience so that the country can emerge stronger from the pandemic.
The strategy refers to 50 quantitative targets and indicators as a basis to design lines of actions for concrete measures and monitoring progress in the coming years. You also stress that wellbeing should be taken into account, as GDP alone does not provide a comprehensive picture.
We are fully aligned with your approach that, to foster resilience, we need to measure and monitor it.
This is why the Commission is developing resilience dashboards – which we proposed in our first annual Strategic Foresight report last September – in cooperation with Member States.
This work will also contribute to the evaluation of wellbeing beyond conventional economic measures like GDP. The need for this is well recognised in the España 2050 strategy and we are glad to try to fill this gap.
This year’s Strategic Foresight report, meanwhile, will focus on the geopolitical dimension of resilience.
Third, European territories.
The Spanish long-term strategy underlines the need for balanced, fair and sustainable territorial development. This is also one of the objectives of the EU cohesion policy and programmes.
It is true that Europe’s urban, rural and remote areas will all be affected by the challenges we are currently facing.
For example, 27 million people in Spain will live in zones under water stress. So making use of sustainable water resources is critical for Spain and the EU.
The Commission has finalised a foresight newsletter on European territories linked to the upcoming communication on the ‘long term vision of rural areas’, which looks into the future implications of some of these issues. We will publish it soon.
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Pedro,
We must continue to strengthen our strategic foresight cooperation and alliances across the Union.
The España 2050 plan offers us a clear way forward in this respect. It aims for competitive sustainability in Spain’s future economy and society, and I congratulate you and your team on your work.
Today’s event is also important, as a tangible example of the clear benefits of stronger cooperation between the EU institutions and Member States.
And I look forward to having more of these occasions where Member States can present their state-of-the-art foresight strategies. In this, Spain has again shown the way.
This is also the reason why, last month, the Commission established an EU-wide foresight network that builds on the analytical and foresight intelligence of the Member States.
I now want this network to grow and make progress, also via clusters of Member States working with each other, and with the EU, to deliver forward-looking horizon scanning on topics that really matter for Europe’s future.
I am sure that Spain and many other Member States with us today will enthusiastically take up this joint effort.
By working together at national and European level, we can ensure our actions in the present can help shape a future that Europeans want and deserve.