ESPAS in brief

The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) provides a framework for cooperation and consultation at administrative level between the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European External Action Service, with the European Investment Bank, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Union Institute for Security Studies and the European Court of Auditors as observers, to work together on medium- and long-term trends facing or relating to the European Union.

The objectives of the ESPAS process, as defined in the 2010 and 2012 EU Budgets, are to: provide an inter-institutional system for identifying these trends, and to provide common analyses of probable outcomes on major issues for policy-makers; promote closer working cooperation between the services of the various EU institutions and bodies which are devoted to the analysis of these trends; provide regular input to the EU institutions to nourish strategic thinking, including reaching out to academics, think tanks and other stake-holders to provide a broad perspective; develop links with other countries and organisations undertaking global trends work, in order to benefit from their expertise, as well as providing its own expertise to other countries seeking to follow strategic trends and changes; and build and maintain an open website and a ‘global repository’ for all relevant information to facilitate access to citizens, linking the site to other working websites on long-term trends across the globe.

History and state of play

After a successful pilot budgetary project and preparatory action under the 2010 and 2012 EU Budgets, the ESPAS project delivered in March 2015 a synthesis report completed in December 2014:

This report builds on an initial scene-setting report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) of spring 2012 and three preliminary trend reports in the fields of economics, society and geopolitics, completed in 2013 by independent leading think-tanks and supervised by three inter-institutional working groups. An on-line open library on long-term trends publications called ORBIS has been created, alongside the development of a network of experts on long-term trends within and beyond the Union.

The on-going operation of the ESPAS process was assessed to be a success in a European Parliament resolution on the subject adopted in October 2013 (Rapporteur for Budgets Committee: James Elles MEP). The Parliament underlined 'the importance of continuing the process of developing an effective capacity for the provision of independent, high-quality inter-institutional analysis and advice on key trends confronting policy-makers within the EU system' and 'strongly recommend[ed] that this process continue after the expiry of the current preparatory action' at the end of 2014, on the basis that would 'involve staff from all the relevant EU institutions and bodies'.

On the basis of the experience of positive cooperation established between administrations during the Pilot Project and Preparatory Action over 2010-14, the ESPAS process is now coordinated by a steering group, encompassing senior officials from the participating EU institutions or bodies, chaired by the Head of the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) in the European Commission. The secretariat of the network is provided by the European Parliament and the ESPAS project team implements the guidelines decided by the steering group.

To give the ESPAS foresight process fresh input, we are developing a programme for young officials in the EU institutions – The Young Talent Network – providing a platform for cultivating foresight capabilities in future policy-makers.

Future milestones

Under the guidance of the inter-institutional ESPAS steering group, the ESPAS network will continuously update the ESPAS knowledge base on key long-term trends, with particular emphasis on unexpected trends or strongly revised assessments. An Annual ESPAS Conference will be held.


ESPAS was initiated in 2010, when a pilot project launched by the European Parliament laid the foundations for cooperation and dialogue between the four participating organisations. The result of this pilot was the publication of a report in the spring of 2012 by the EUISS entitled

which assessed the long-term political and economic environment facing the EU. The report identified several global trends that will shape the world in 2030. They include:

  • empowerment of the individual, which may contribute to a growing sense of belonging to a single human community;
  • greater stress on sustainable development against a backdrop of greater resource scarcity and persistent poverty, compounded by the consequences of climate change;
  • the emergence of a more polycentric world, which could also be characterised by a shift of power away from states;
  • growing governance gaps as the mechanisms for inter-state relations may fail to respond adequately to global public demands.

In 2011, the European Parliament gave the go-ahead for a second stage in the project – a so-called 'Preparatory Action' – with a view to putting in place by 2014 a permanent inter-institutional system to identify and analyse long-term trends.

In 2012, three inter-institutional working groups were set up to oversee an intensive analytical process, including outreach to those interested in engaging with ESPAS, in order to draft trend reports in three key fields: the economy, society, and governance and power. The process resulted in the publication of the report:

Legal basis

Draft Report on Forward Policy Planning and long-term trends: budgetary implications of capacity-building:

Contact us

If you would like to know more about the ESPAS process, please email the ESPAS Secretariat.

Back to top of the page
Back to top of the page