STATE OF EUROPE | People Power Change – Navigating the new era

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It’s democracy, but not as we know it. People power is changing the rules of politics, economics, society and global relations.

Moods and attitudes shape political debates: frustration with the established order; a sense of loss of control or of being left behind. Technology amplifies these feelings, underpinning new movements and leaders that shake the old order.

The results can be unsettling: facts dismissed; hard-won rights threatened; deals and threats replacing negotiations and diplomacy.

But opportunities abound too: the chance to bring more people into the democratic process; to shake up sclerotic institutions; to use automation and robotics to change rather than replace jobs, and to relaunch Europe’s economy.

This year’s State of Europe roundtable is focused on how people are rewriting the rules of politics. How does Europe turn an age of uncertainty into an age of opportunity?



08.00 – 09.30 Registration of participants

08.30 – 09.20 BREAKFAST MASTERCLASSWar and Peace: Learning from conflicts and peace talks

The continuing conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan and Syria have highlighted Europe’s inability to act collectively to shape global events. Against this backdrop, is a European ‘defence union’, capable of speedily projecting force, a realistic prospect?

This set of six masterclasses will look at some of Europe’s biggest foreign policy challenges, seeking to learn both from conflicts and their resolution. It asks, with the help of senior experts, whether and how Europe can assert itself globally and build a safer world.

The areas covered include Afghanistan, Colombia, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine.


09.30 – 09.45 Idea sharing 1

09.45 – 11.15 PLENARY SESSIONPopulism and the politics of pan-Europeanism

Populist politicians have eroded support for the EU and prised votes away from Europe’s centre-right and centre-left. These politicians – often working across borders as a ‘Populists International’, with similar themes and approaches – offer simplistic solutions to globalisation’s challenges and reflect dissatisfaction with mainstream parties.

This session will look at how Europe moves past its political and leadership crisis and ask whether populism can be harnessed to create a genuinely different kind of politics at national and European level – one that has popular support, input and trust, and improves people’s lives. The 2019 European elections see the children of the 21st century voting for the first time: can we rethink Europe to match the expectations of a new generation?

In a ‘Dragons Den’-style format, we will ask innovative thinkers to pitch their ‘wild ideas’ for a more citizen-focused Europe, going beyond the options set out in the Commission’s white paper on the future of Europe. Our panel of senior political leaders, as well as the State of Europe audience, will assess their feasibility.


11.15 – 11.45 Coffee break

11.45 – 12.00 Idea sharing 2

12.00 – 13.30 PARALLEL SESSIONS – Shaking up Europe, shaking up the world

The paper ballots still used in most elections around Europe symbolise a refusal to rethink our democracy. Many of our democratic practices are stuck in the era of the first or second industrial revolutions while the world moves into the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Digital technologies are changing politics. They are giving – for good and ill – a platform to those who were often ignored, including activists, citizen journalists and extremists. They are also hastening the fragmentation of the predominantly left-right political spectrum, already weakened by changes in society and the economy.

We will debate the implications of digital for democracy in Europe. Do platforms such as Debating Europe offer lessons both for the development of online democracy, and for reducing the voting age? What can be done to counter the rise of ‘fake news’ and hacking? And can we channel the positive elements of ‘people power’ online but prevent the rise of demagogues?

Brexit, Trump and populist movements around the world are shaking the post-war consensus. Institutions such as the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization were built by a political generation that has now passed: they now have less currency and importance for many of today’s leaders and the public, as well as for emerging powers, such as China, which is developing its own multilateral organisations.

Is this just a sign of the times – a consequence of economic and social difficulties? Or are we seeing a more fundamental shift from openness to protectionism, from diplomacy to deal-making, from multilateralism to bilateralism and even nationalism?

This session will look at whether multilateralism still has a place in the 21st century – and if so, how we reshape, rebuild or even replace the current framework of institutions, making them fit to address new global issues such as Artificial Intelligence, robotisation and increasing inequality gaps within and between nations?

13.30 – 14.30 Lunch

14.30 – 16.00 PARALLEL SESSIONSDivide and rule? Addressing the deep rifts that threaten Europe’s future

Inequality remains the scourge of our era. The bargaining power of the low- and middle-skilled workers has been severely undermined by automation, overseas competition and weaker trade unions. The ‘Future of Work’ may well prove to be the greatest challenge yet to the European project: the information age is not only transforming jobs but polarising societies and creating social tensions that encourage populism.

Europe needs to rise to the challenge to create the environment for new types of jobs, and make the most of the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as AI and automation. How should education and training structures be adapted to ensure that the benefits of digitalisation are evenly spread? Should we be thinking of ‘skills security’ rather than ‘job security’ (and how do we explain the difference)? Should social security and economic policies be reformed? And what roles should be played by the EU, including through its long-term budget, and national governments?

Europe’s post-industrial service-based economy is throwing longstanding trends and loyalties sharply into question. The support that mainstream political parties relied on from traditional rural or manufacturing regions is drifting to the extremes. This populism is also being fuelled by concerns over immigration, even though an ageing Europe badly needs new manpower: a growing body of employers are taking migrants onto their payrolls and making the most part of the estimated US$ 1 trillion dividend of improvements in integration.

What priority should be given to integration of today’s and tomorrow’s migrants, as well as the children of migrants? How do we ensure that local development and infrastructure support to give opportunities to migrants doesn’t put excessive pressure on scarce capacity and alienate long-term residents? How do we change the narrative on migration at a time Europe badly needs new blood to fuel its economies and to contribute taxes to the progressive social support mechanisms in EU countries?

16.15 – 17.45 TABLE DISCUSSIONSFunding ambition: How does Europe pay for its political choices?

The future financing of the European Union has been a hot topic in 2017, with the European Commission’s High-Level Group on Own Resources publishing new budget recommendations. In a post-Brexit environment, the EU budget will be smaller so tough choices will have to be made. Now is the time to decide how we should invest and what financial choices should be made.

As Europe faces up to the big challenges of the future such as climate change, demographics, digitisation and security, what should scarce EU funds be spent on and what should be left to member states? More than 50% of global welfare and social spending happens in the EU, but can we afford to continue this way?

The session features a series of table discussions with top-level decision-makers on how to balance the needs of Europe in the future. If we were to design a Multiannual Financial Framework to reflect the priorities of EU citizens, what would it look like? How could EU spending fundamentally improve the daily lives of Europe’s citizens?

  1. Fostering sustainable development
  2. Removing barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship
  3. Protecting EU agriculture post-Brexit
  4. New paradigms for financing security
  5. Making growth sustainable, inclusive and cohesive
  6. Tackling growing health challenges

Ideas from the discussions will feed into a panel discussion where representatives of each table debate policy choices and political challenges. They will examine how we achieve a budget that delivers for Europeans, providing a desirable and sustainable future and effective government.



Throughout the day, our guests at State of Europe will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in novel ways of thinking thanks to a series of short presentations on new ideas, such as:

  • How can we transform Europe into a resource-efficient, green and decarbonised continent?
  • Bringing back the ‘left behinds’: Is a universal income the way ahead?
  • What are the opportunities provided by autonomous vehicles, robots and learning machines?
  • Data-driven innovation: A strategic road for Europe?
  • Reaching biotechnology holy grails: Creating organs in labs?


Contact info

For general enquiries:

Jean-Yves Stenuick, Programme Manager
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 25

For press enquiries:

David O’Leary, Director of Communications
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 16

Our events include photos, audio and video recording that we might use for promotional purposes. By registering, you give your permission to use your image. Should you have any questions, please contact our Director of Communications, David O’Leary, at


Registration for this event is by invitation only.


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