2021 Strategic Foresight Report: Enhancing the EU's long-term capacity and freedom to act

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Wednesday, September 8 2021.

The Commission has today adopted its second annual Strategic Foresight Report - “The EU's capacity and freedom to act”*. This Communication presents a forward-looking and multidisciplinary perspective on the EU's open strategic autonomy in an increasingly multipolar and contested global order. The Commission has identified four main global trends, affecting the EU's capacity and freedom to act: climate change and other environmental challenges; digital hyperconnectivity and technological transformation; pressure on democracy and values; and shifts in the global order and demography. It has also set out 10 key areas of action where the EU can seize opportunities for its global leadership and open strategic autonomy. Strategic foresight thereby continues to inform the Commission's Work Programmes and priority-setting.

European Commission President 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.”

Ten strategic areas of policy action

  • Ensuring sustainable and resilient health and food systems;
  • Securing decarbonised and affordable energy;
  • Strengthening capacity in data management, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technologies;
  • Securing and diversifying supply of critical raw materials;
  • Ensuring first-mover global position in standard setting;
  • Building resilient and future-proof economic and financial systems;
  • Developing and retaining skills and talents matching EU ambitions;
  • Strengthening security and defence capacities and access to space;
  • Working with global partners to promote peace, security and prosperity for all; and
  • Strengthening the resilience of institutions

Next Steps

The Commission will continue to implement its Strategic Foresight Agenda for this policy cycle, informing Work Programme initiatives for next year. On 18-19 November, it will host the annual European Strategy and Political Analysis System (ESPAS) conference to discuss the topic of next year's Strategic Foresight Report - the twinning of the green and digital transitions, i.e. how they can mutually reinforce each other, including by using emerging technologies. Furthermore, the EU-wide Foresight Network of the “Ministers for the Future” in all Member States will continue to build foresight capacity in EU Member State administrations. Later this month, the Commission will also finalise a public consultation on its resilience dashboards, a new tool to assess resilience in a more holistic manner, in the EU and its Member States. This will contribute to measuring social and economic wellbeing by going beyond GDP. A public consultation on the Commission's draft resilience dashboards is ongoing until 30 September.


Strategic foresight supports the Commission on its forward-looking and ambitious path towards achieving President von der Leyen's six headline ambitions. Beginning in 2020, annual Strategic Foresight Reports are prepared, based on full foresight cycles, to inform the priorities of the annual State of the Union speech, the Commission Work Programme and multi-annual programming.

This year's report builds on the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report, which introduced resilience as a new compass for EU policymaking. The megatrends and policy actions laid out in the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report were identified through an expert-led, cross-sectoral foresight exercise conducted by the Commission services, with broad consultations of Member States, and other EU institutions in the framework of the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS). The results of the foresight exercise are presented in a Joint Research Centre Science for Policy report: Shaping and securing the EU's Strategic Autonomy by 2040 and beyond.

To support building foresight capacities across the EU, the Commission established the EU-wide Foresight Network, including 27 Ministers for the Future from all Member States. This network shares best practices and informs the Commission's strategic foresight agenda by discussing key issues of relevance for Europe's future.

For more information

2021 Strategic Foresight Report: The EU's capacity and freedom to act *

Questions and answers on the 2021 Strategic Foresight Report

Website on Strategic Foresight

JRC Science for Policy report: Shaping and securing the EU's Strategic Autonomy by 2040 and beyond

*Link corrected on 08 Sept. at 12:53