EU Science Hub

JRC publishes foresight report on the future of the EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy

The JRC examined existing strengths and areas for improvement and identified emerging challenges and future opportunities across five different areas: geopolitics, technology, economy, environment and society.
Foresight helps EU policymakers future proof policies.
Sep 08 2021

The European Commission adopted its second annual Strategic Foresight Report today.

The JRC report underpinning this year’s Strategic Foresight Report presents a forward-looking analysis on the EU’s capacities and freedom to act in an increasingly multipolar and contested global order.

During the past nine months, the JRC engaged over a hundred of stakeholders and experts within a foresight process looking at the future of EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy by 2040 and beyond.

The foresight process examined existing strengths and areas for improvement and identified emerging challenges and future opportunities. It focused on five different areas: geopolitics, technology, economy, environment and society.

The results of this process have fed into the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report, adopted by the Commission today, and are presented in the JRC’s science for policy report: Shaping and securing the EU’s Strategic Autonomy by 2040 and beyond.

The President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “European citizens experience almost on a daily basis that global challenges such as climate change and digital transformation have a direct impact on their personal lives.

We all feel that our democracy and European values are being put into question, both externally and internally, or that Europe needs to adapt its foreign policy due to a changing global order.

Early and better information about such trends will help us tackle such important issues in time and steer our Union in a positive direction.”

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of interinstitutional relations and foresight, said: “While we cannot know what the future holds, a better understanding of key megatrends, uncertainties and opportunities will enhance the EU’s long-term capacity and freedom to act.

This Strategic Foresight Report therefore looks into four megatrends with a major impact on the EU, and identifies ten areas of action in order to boost our open strategic autonomy and cement our global leadership towards 2050.

The pandemic has only strengthened the case for ambitious strategic choices today and this report will help us keep an eye on the ball.”

Future of the EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy

What does the JRC’s report tell us about the EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy in the future? Let’s look briefly into these different areas to get a sense of the report.

  • In geopolitics, the EU could bolster its influence by strengthening strategic alliances with like-minded countries and organisations, and by increasing its internal political cohesion to act jointly on defence and security matters.
  • In technology, to achieve digital sovereignty the EU could scale up EU start-ups in innovation-friendly ecosystems, and design tech regulations in a way that fosters innovation in line with EU values and standards.
  • In economy, in order to avoid one-sided dependencies, the EU could strengthen the resilience of its economic assets and industries. By reinforcing the international role of the euro, it could enhance the stability and resilience of the financial system.
  • In environment, the EU would need to keep its leading role in climate diplomacy and as pacemaker for the green transition. It could use the green transition to modernise the EU industry through a continued leadership in renewable energy technology and the implementation of a more circular economy.
  • In society, the EU could strengthen its position in the world by focusing on fundamental rights and values, as well as strengthening democracy internally. To ensure that the EU workforce will remain competitive in the future the EU would need to modernise its education system and focus on adult training and reskilling in all areas.

The foresight process in a nutshell

The process involved broad consultations with stakeholders and experts in the Commission, Member States, the European Parliament, the Council, and discussions with partners in the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS).

It relied also on the inputs and strategic discussions with academic organisations and think tanks, civil society organisations and business representatives.

JRC scientists drew up scenarios on how the EU’s global standing could look like in 2040. The four scenarios are Green Leadership, Complex Prosperity, Economic Growth Above All and Retreat Inwards.

Each scenario pictures a different future of Europe and thereby helps to understand strategic choices, emerging challenges and best ways to capitalise on the available opportunities.

Foresight at the service of EU policy makers

Strategic foresight supports the European Commission on its forward-looking and ambitious path to achieve President von der Leyen’s six headline ambitions. The first Strategic Foresight Report was published in 2020.

Strategic Foresight Reports are based on full foresight cycles and are prepared to inform the Commission’s priorities, including the State of the Union speech, the Commission Work Programme and multi-annual programming.

In its ambition to build foresight capacities across the EU, the Commission has supported the establishment of the EU-wide Foresight Network.

The Network consists of one minister from each Member State - the Ministers for the Future. The Network shares best practices and informs the Commission’s strategic foresight agenda by discussing key issues of relevance for Europe’s future.

The Commission will co-host, together with the European Parliament, the annual European Strategy and Political Analysis System (ESPAS) conference on 18-19 November 2021 ‘Shaping Europe's future: Global trends and strategic choices’.

The conference offers opportunities to discuss with different stakeholders global issues tackled in this year's Strategic Foresight Report and related to EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy.  

The Commission will soon launch the foresight process for the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report that will focus on the emerging technologies for the green and digital transitions.