High-level conference gauges future trends – and informs the search for a European response

19-Feb-2014 @ 12:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

High-level conference gauges future trends – and informs the search for a European response

Europe's leaders and policy-makers must engage with one another - and with the rest of the world – in facing up to the central questions of our age.

They must also develop a positive and open mindset in embracing new ideas and innovative responses to the challenges ahead, the annual conference of ESPAS (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System) a high level conference on future trends heard.

James Elles, chairman of the ESPAS inter-institutional task force, told more than 200 delegates to a two-day conference in Brussels that the organisation had already produced a successful pilot project on future trends and was working on a comprehensive report on trends to 2030, to be published later this year.

In his opening remarks, Mr Elles told delegates: "It may well be that some will find predictions to be gloomy in many respects. But this is the essence of the exercise.

"Should we be able to spot emerging trends with clarity. Then policy makers will be able to discuss, reflect and decide should they wish to change current policies if they do not like the look of the outcomes predicted."

The third annual conference of ESPAS attracted a wide-ranging and powerful list of speakers and participants including European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso; Jean-Claude Thebault, Director General of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers at the Commission; David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer, European External Action Service; Jim Cloos, Deputy Director-General, General and Institutional Policy, EU Council; Dr Ruan Zongze, Vice-President of the China Institute of International Studies; Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew research Centre; and Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Mr Elles, Conservative MEP for the South East of England, outlined the work ESPAS was undertaking in three key fields: inter-institutional, international and the generation of ideas.

He said: "Throughout the year, working groups bringing together senior officials from all the major institutions and bodies of the European Union have worked closely with independent researchers identified to prepare substantive reports on current trends in the international economy; changes arising from the emergence of a global society and the shifts in international governance and power.

"We have continued...to ensure an international outlook to our discussions. Too often, thinking about our European future takes place amongst Europeans alone. So, a particularly warm welcome to many leading thinkers from such countries as Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa and the United States of America."

On the search for new ideas he said: "We know that the rising competitiveness of certain new players on the global scene could make it more difficult for Europe to maintain its social models and welfare systems... What are we going to do to make the changes necessary, in particular with demographic trends indicating an ageing population?

"We know that technology is feeding innovation with unremitting speed. How can society adapt more quickly to technological change, so increasing productivity, without exacerbating social imbalances?

"We know that there could be wide-ranging social and political dissatisfaction facing democratic institutions, associated with growing individual empowerment. Will our current governance systems be able to respond effectively to the challenges ahead?"

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