In the course of the strategic foresight, the EU Commission annually tries to identify the challenges of the EU’s future and to anticipate them in political present day measures. This year, the focus is on sustainability and well-being and thus on the question of which strategic decisions need to be taken today in order to create a socially, ecologically and economically sustainable EU in the future. Not only can future expectations determine policy today, but policy today also determines the future situation, not least of workers.
The aim of strategic foresight is to be better prepared for future developments. Future research and public consultations are used to identify upcoming challenges. The results are incorporated into current policy-making. The reports are prepared with the involvement of several Directorates General of the EU Commission. In 2020, the focus was on Resilience, in 2021 on Open Strategic Autonomy and 2022 on Twinning the Green and Digital Transitions. In 2023, the focus is on “Sustainability and Wellbeing – at the heart of Europe’s Open Strategic Autonomy”.
Looking ahead to the challenges of the future
The shift in geopolitical weights is already shaping public debate and politics today. According to the EU Commission, it will continue to pose a challenge for international cooperation in the future, for example in the area of climate policy. The EU Commission sees a second challenge in the need for a new economic model in which the focus is on the wellbeing of people and the protection of nature. This also means decoupling economic growth from resource use and shifting towards more sustainable production and consumption. Overall, economic, social and environmental sustainability are seen as inextricably linked. Thirdly, to cope with the green and digital transformation, one also sees a growing demand for adequate skills. A crucial role for the future competitiveness of the EU will be played by a socially and technically qualified workforce. Fourthly, unprecedented investments are also needed for a sustainable transition, and thus also sufficient funding from both from public and private sectors. The Commission also identifies a fifth challenge in cuts in social cohesion. For example, inequality within Member States is on the rise. Finally, it points to future threats to democracy and the existing social contract.
EU Commission proposals for wellbeing in the course of sustainable transition
- Ensure a new European social contract with renewed welfare policies and a focus on high-quality social services
- Deepen the Single Market to promote a resilient net-zero economy with a focus on Open Strategic Autonomy and economic security
- Boost the EU's offer on the global stage with a view to intensifying cooperation with key partners
- Support shifts in production and consumption towards sustainability through regulation and promotion of balanced lifestyles
- Move towards a "Europe of investments" through public action to catalyse financial resources for the transitions
- Make public budgets fit for sustainability of public budgets through an effective tax framework and public spending
- Further shift policy and economic indicators towards sustainable and inclusive wellbeing, for example in terms of gross domestic product
- Ensure that everyone can contribute to the transition by increasing labour force participation and focusing on skills needed in the future
- Strengthen democracy with generational fairness at the heart of policymaking to strengthen support for transitions
- Complement civil protection with "civil prevention" by reinforcing the EU's toolbox on preparedness and response
Overall, these recommendations - which is not surprising - largely reflect the current political priorities of the EU, for example in the area of economic governance or trade policy. There are important points from the perspective of workers. Nevertheless, there is still a need for further discussion. For example, in its opinion on the report 2022, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) stressed, that it could have helped much more if it had been involved in the foresight exercise from the start. After all, assessments of the future not only have an impact on current actions, but current policies also determine the future, not least of workers.
What are the next steps?
The report was presented to the Member States at the General Affairs Council in July. It will feed into the agenda of the informal meeting of the European Council in Granada in October. In November, the Commission and the EU Parliament will organise the European Strategy and Polical Analysis System (ESPAS) annual conference. The annual strategic foresight also feeds into the Commission's priorities, its Work Programme and its multi-annual programming.
EU Commission: Press Release on the 2023 Strategic Foresight Report
EU Commission: Website 2023 Strategic Foresight Report
EU Commission: Strategic Foresight Report 23 “Sustainability and wellbeing at the heart of Europe´s Open Strategic Autonomy”