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The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (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 European Union Institute for Strategic Studies (EUISS) entitled 'Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World' pdf - 5 MB [5 MB] which assessed the long-term political and economic environment facing the EU over the next 20 years. The report identified several global trends that will shape the world in 2030. They include:

  • The 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 EP 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 will result, in 2014, in the publication of a detailed appraisal of long-term global trends and the challenges and options for the period 2014/2019. This will be submitted to the incoming Presidents of the EU institutions.


By 2014, when ESPAS’ final report is published, the institutions’ shared commitment to collective, strategic thinking should have laid the ground for more permanent cooperation and dialogue. The report itself will help define strategic options for the next EU institutional cycle – from 2014 to 2019 – and beyond.

Task force

ESPAS is steered by a ‘quadrilateral’ inter-institutional Task Force bringing together the European Parliament, the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Task Force has a supervisory role, while the shared nature of ESPAS’ political ownership also provides a basis for a permanent foresight capacity. The Task Force is chaired by James Elles.

Legal basis


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