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30th Nov 2023

EU in 'battle of narratives' on future of planet and democracy

  • EU leaders are trying to find ways to meet Chinese industrial dominance with a positive message (Photo: Europan Commission)
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The EU Commission on Thursday (6 July) published a report outlining its long-term planning on climate change, health crises and future foreign economic competition — the main issues, challenges and crises for policy-makers.

The Strategic Foresight Report was launched in 2020 by the commission to "mainstream" strategic foresight into European policymaking as a way to prepare for change.

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EU vice president Maroš Šefčovič said forecasting will help Europe become more "resilient" — with one of the main threats raised in the report being foreign competition.

Europe had entered a "battle of narratives" with competitors that do not adhere to liberal democratic values, Šefčovič said. "The time that liberal democracy is the standard model is over."

Doubling down on human well-being and the environment as distinguishing elements of the EU model was one element of the strategic message.

The plan is to weave these elusive but essential factors into the heart of EU economic policymaking by adding them to gross domestic product (GDP) measurement — the core denominator of economic performance.

In this way, EU policymakers hope to increase future resiliency and solve persistent problems facing the European green transition, including labour shortages and a lack of skills in the relevant sectors.

For example, the report notes 85 percent of European firms today lack staff with the "competences needed to navigate the green and digital transitions."

And 72 percent of the over four million EU companies rely on the well functioning of the natural world, clean water, or healthy soil. By tying nature to economic standards, future prosperity and environmental health become linked.

"The fact that this report is centred around human well-being really makes this a landmark moment," said Elizabeth Dirth, who is a development director at the ZOE Institute for Future-fit Economies, an independent think tank headquartered in Cologne, Germany, adding that it is a first step in a longer process of the EU becoming "better in long-term planning."

"The risk is that this will be a one-commission term process," she told EUobserver. "What is needed is for the next commission to continue the work."

More concretely the report also noted that Europe needs green investments worth €712bn a year until 2030 to meet climate goals.

According to Šefčovič, this is to be achieved by using public funds to attract more private capital.

However, this method so far has fallen short.

"There is no sign of sufficient financing is being made available to reach 2030 targets, particularly from the private sector," reported the European Court of Auditors (ECA) in June.

There is a reason private finance may not be the panacea EU policymakers are hoping for. "A lot of the green investments don't have a business case," Dirth said.

This was confirmed by a separate June report by the research consortium European Climate Neutrality Observatory, warning that EU green finance was "far off track."

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