Areas of Expertise

Explore the nine topics on which we base our work

Climate & Energy

After 20 years of negotiations, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement to limit global warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial level by the end of the century. The focus now moves to design and implementation, and success will depend on the support and contribution of all – including industries, member-states, regions, cities and citizens.
We look at the evolving role of innovation, regulation, competition, and the impact of consumption and production in various sectors including mobility, buildings, agriculture, industry and finance among others. Achieving a just transition and a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050 will require relevant stakeholders to upscale their activities and increase global climate ambition. Friends of Europe role will be to stimulate and provoke these discussions to debate how to improve policy thinking and take preventative action. 
We support knowledge and innovation, businesses, entrepreneurs, forward-looking policies and local actors and activists in acting transparently and collectively to develop cost effective measures addressing the joint challenge of climate change and sustainable economic development. We aim at bringing together fresh ideas on viable climate and energy subjects to lead the transition and demonstrate Europe can lead by example in areas as diverse as nature based solutions, the future of food, sustainable consumption, reducing waste and recycling. 
Friends of Europe’s focus in this debate is to engage cross-sector stakeholders on a sustainable energy transition, its cost and financing. In doing so, we will explore how to accelerate its momentum through experimentation and innovation. Taking a whole economy, whole society approach to decarbonisation underpins our overall approach in this area of expertise.


Health is an economic and social driver for Europe. Demographic shifts, greater demand and ongoing financial restrictions are putting European health systems under extreme pressure. 

At the same time health inequalities are widening between member states and within member states. Research suggests that spending more on health does not necessarily result in better health outcomes. Increasingly it is becoming clear that it is not how much money that matters but how that money is spent. Intelligence and evidence based health care provision is key to transforming health systems.

Aligned to this is the investment model underpining a transition to a 21st century model of healthcare – the two points of leverage the EU has – is its R&D capacity and its ability to innovate. Friends of Europe will spotlight the opportunities that lie ahead to incentivise system change through demonstration of innovation and alternative models of healthcare. Prevention is key to balancing budgets with better health outcomes, yet the majority of EU member states spend their money on the consequences of poor health and not the causes. This require a paradigm shift.

Waste is an obvious but complex area to tackle. Inertia in the system, bureaucracy, and a focus on cost containment add to the problem. This limits the resilience of health system to cope with future challenges like climate change and pandemics.

A core facet for the 21st century health care system is harnessing the potential of digital with a citizen and patient centred approach. Friends of Europe will also aim to address the brave new world of health by reflecting on and debating the implications of AI, gene editing, 3D printing and big data. Our role will be to provoke thinking on the importance of innovation and disruption as an accelerator for healthier societies.

Health is dear to the hearts of citizens, ranking highly in Eurobarometer surveys of personal priorities. Despite not being an EU competency, health is an opportunity for Europe to connect with its citizens and demonstrate its added value to their lives.

Asia, Africa and Emerging Economies

Europe’s relationship with Asia and Africa has expanded beyond the traditional focus on development, trade, and security. Reflecting the changed geopolitical landscape and the increased global role of emerging economies, the focus of the EU and Friends of Europe is now also on Europe’s interaction with its global partners on climate change, connectivity and implementation of Agenda 2030 as well as terrorism and radicalisation. Our programmes and activities track these conversations – and foresee new ones - through publications and events that aim to make sense of our changing world.

Our Asia Programme, including the Europe-China Forum, looks at the political, economic and social facets of the ‘Asian century’ and provides a high-level platform for dialogue between policymakers, academics, civil society and business leaders. With interdependence between Asia and Europe set to grow even further, our ground-breaking work is contributing to a new interaction between the two regions and between the EU and individual countries includingChina, India, Japan and members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). We are also closely engaged in the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Our work on international development issues is led by the Development Policy Forum (DPF), which was set up by Friends of Europe in partnership with development actors such as Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), France’s Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the United Nations and the World Bank. Reflecting the growing role of the private sector in development, the forum has recently welcomed the Coca Cola Company and Eni. Through its activities and publications, the DPF encourages fresh thinking on issues such as the future of the EU-Africa partnership, women’s role in development as well as the role of the private sector in implementing Agenda 2030. We do this partially through our work with a high-level group of personalities on EU-Africa relations, organised in partnership with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.  In a world distracted by myriad challenges, we aim to raise awareness of development issues and to encourage new ideas and recommendations for tackling global challenges.

Digital, Skills & Inequalities

The pace of digital transformation and innovation taking place globally is far out pacing the ability of governments and international institutions to prepare, adapt and plan ahead for the situations that will face our societies. This transformation is also raising questions about ethics; how to regulate to protect the rights of people whilst not damaging innovation and growth; about the future of work - the future of skills that will be required to adapt to a digital society; it is also changing consumption habits which are shifting business models, supply chains and distribution infrastructure; and the ways in which people are conducting their lives. 

Whilst the pace of technological change can be a force for good, it also has the potential to reinforce and widen inequalities and reduce the social ability of those who are furthest from the job market and most disadvantaged in our societies. 

At a macro level, the revolution precipitated by digital has an impact on current and future models of economics and the traditional relationships between supply and demand, as capital flows, services, goods and wider industries transition towards a digital operational and societal environment.  Friends of Europe’s helps think through the implications of these changes, taking the widest possible stakeholder and community perspectives and experiences to bear upon the policy thinking and developments that will be required. Our focus is to link the policy implications for skills development and preparedness, the role of education and digital literacy and inequalities. We work across policy areas taking a whole society, whole economy approach - to enable policy thinking and developments to be fit for a digital 21st Century.

Peace, Security and Defence

The global security landscape is in flux. From increased tensions between NATO and Russia and ongoing difficult Brexit negotiations to China’s more assertive global stand under the consolidated leadership of President Xi Jinping, new challenges are continuously putting into question global security frameworks and approaches. Rapid technological developments and changes in the nature of warfare are creating an environment characterised by complex, global and interconnected challenges ranging from cyber-threats, climate change, global terrorism, mass migration and nuclear proliferation that cross and blur borders.  

In this globalised but also more confrontational and complex world, we put peacebuilding as a core aim of our work, which can only been achieved through stronger cooperation at the European, transatlantic and global level. This cooperation must be encouraged at all levels of government and society, fostering resilience to ensure constant adaptation to new vulnerabilities and emerging threats.

The overall objectives of our Peace, Security & Defence Programme is to make sense of changes in the global landscape; reinforce the importance of transatlantic relations; assess Europe’s cooperative, preventative and peacebuilding agenda, especially in relations to its southern and eastern neighbourhood; improve diversity in perspectives, particularly of women as leaders and peacebuilders, and of the value of involving younger generations; further a whole-of-society approach that engages citizens, experts and policymakers; and mainstream our peace, security and defence agenda across all our activities, recognising the interconnectedness of the world we live in.

Migration and Integration

Migration is a global phenomenon which needs to be tackled on the international level but also by national governments, local authorities and an empowered civil society. In Europe, while the focus tends to be on migration and the political tensions it continues to provoke, governments are also responding to the longer term challenge of integrating migrants and refugees in order to build more inclusive and resilient societies. 

Friends of Europe is contributing to the discussion with its sustained work – including publications, roundtables and conferences – on migration and integration.  We engage with all relevant stakeholders, including EU institutions and national governments but also refugee and migrant groups, European civil society representatives as well as business leaders and local authorities. We believe that refugees and migrants must have the opportunity to play an active role in designing their own paths to integration and inclusion. 

Through our work, we want to spotlight that well-managed migration is an asset for Europe. As such, all those who believe in an open and multicultural Europe must work harder to change the current negative narrative on migration through facts and figures but also a stronger emotional story on the many benefits of inclusion.  It is also important to have more realistic and comprehensive policies that address both the challenges and opportunities posed by migration and integration. 

Water as a tool for peace and sustainable development
19 Apr 2019
Citizens' Europe

Brussels is not Europe, and the discussions that take place here are far from representative of the issues that concern many of Europe’s citizens. Governments across the world are struggling with this disconnect as citizens show an increasing lack of trust in politics and politicians. 

Much of this disconnect is to do with matters of poor governance, corruption and bad management. It is also to do with how governments and policymakers make decisions, craft policy and share power with citizens. Power-sharing involves using the principles and methods of coproduction, co-creation and being more transparent and accountable. In this area of expertise, Friends of Europe provokes debate, discussion and challenge current thinking on citizen engagement - its purpose, outcome and process. By involving and engaging citizens directly with practitioners from NGOs, governments, entrepreneurs and tech savvy communities, we aim to improve and develop thinking, debate and policy making to devise better and more meaningful citizen involvement and engagement to improve their trust and the stake citizens have in their future and in the work of the EU. The pace of change in this early part of 21st Century demands a paradigm shift in the approach to the relationship between the state and citizen.

Friends of Europe works to foster discussion on the full range of grassroots issues facing Europe, and to challenge traditional top-down’ thinking with a citizen-driven ‘bottom up approach. We do this by hosting citizen meet ups in cities across Europe and via Debating Europe, our online debating platform. 

‘Vision for Europe’ provides 10 recommendations to reform the European Union
7 May 2019