Renewed Social Contract


Renewed Social Contract


Our 20th annual festival of politics and ideas – State of Europe high-level roundtable – brought together 200+ influential figures among entrepreneurs, politicians, legislators, corporates, NGO leaders and CEOs from 40+ countries to discuss 10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe six months ahead of the European elections. These policy choices are built upon the voices and concerns of European citizens consulted by way of focus groups and debates and will be published in early 2024.

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Friends of Europe thanks Ece Temelkuran for agreeing to our request to provide a powerful and emotional context for the need for a Renewed Social Contract ahead of State of Europe. A primal scream and elegy to our times, this piece of work speaks to the current state of our unpredictable, uncertain, and unstable world.

Towards a Renewed Social Contract for Europe

The social contract is a tacit agreement among members of a society – the state, citizens, as well as private and civil society sectors – that defines their mutual relationships, respective responsibilities, shared values and expectations of each other.

Europe’s 20th-century social contract introduced ground-breaking concepts, such as welfarism and the social protection net, which were intended for the betterment of society. However, it has not kept pace with macro trends, such as demographic change, technological innovation, climate change and multipolarity. Mounting challenges and crises have brought societal concerns, confusion and frustrations to a breaking point in the new millennium.

The idea of Europe and the importance of its union has never been more fragile than it is today. Our current social contract leaves many underrepresented, disengaged and excluded. In other words, it fails to address existential challenges and ensure social progress.

Europe’s social contract should serve to promote the equitable representation, meaningful engagement and fair inclusion of all members, but we cannot achieve real social progress if we continue to rely on outdated measures of progress, such as gross domestic product (GDP), and supply-and-demand or shareholder-based economic models.

We need to radically rethink the process by which citizens, the private sector, civil society and public institutions interact. In order to engender greater trust, hope and confidence, the private and public sectors, civil society and citizens must become equal shareholders and active participants in decision-making processes.

This will mean challenging our traditional relationship with capital and tackling unfair distributions of power and wealth. Doing so will require better serving the needs of increasingly diverse communities that now comprise European populations, while at the same time recognising the multitude of benefits that arise from having an inclusive, sustainable and forward-thinking Europe. Structures of governance, policies and actions will need to be reconfigured based on increased power-sharing, accountability, transparency and trust among and between all members of society.

Ultimately, a Renewed Social Contract is the only avenue towards the inclusive and fair transitions, peace and security, and social prosperity that are needed for Europe to play its part in the world and care for its citizens in the 21st century.

Friends of Europe’s role

Friends of Europe is committed to playing its part in defining a Renewed Social Contract for Europe. In 2018, we published our #EuropeMatters report, arguing that Europe needs a Renewed Social Contract. The following year, we published our Vision for Europe report, setting out a policy toolbox to help establish this Renewed Social Contract.

As of 2022, the Renewed Social Contract is the overarching narrative of our work. Looking through the lens of our strategic objectives, Friends of Europe’s wide-reaching programme of activities allows us to take important steps towards defining a Renewed Social Contract for Europe.

We will work in step with the EU political cycle. The 2024 and 2029 European Parliament elections will serve as key milestones towards a Renewed Social Contract for Europe, as our initiative aims to target their resulting mandates. Every activity we put together through 2030 is in one way, shape or form connected to the ambition of designing a Renewed Social Contract for Europe.

Engaging stakeholders in the Renewed Social Contract

If you wish to remain informed on our Renewed Social Contract initiative, please let us know at

Friends of Europe is a network of networks in Europe and globally, bringing together thought leaders from across sectors, demographics and ideological lines. We will leverage this strength as a facilitator and convener to shape and influence policies for a Renewed Social Contract.

In this pursuit, we will craft ten policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract through various consultation exercises. Our proposals will comprise reflections on a diverse set of cross-cutting themes that impact citizens across the EU: from worries and insecurities around money and the economy, to climate change, digitalisation and freedom from harm.

Given that the Renewed Social Contract will ultimately pivot the relationships between the public, private and civil society sectors, both out of necessity and to ensure relevance and credibility of these choices, Friends of Europe will source the ten policy choices through a multistakeholder and multidisciplinary framework based on:

  • Policy discussions: Friends of Europe will act as a facilitator and convener to bring together Europe’s best and brightest from across the private, public and civil society sectors, demographics and ideological lines. We will ensure every one of our activities is designed with the Renewed Social Contract in mind and that our contributors come up with innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Citizen engagements by Debating Europe: Friends of Europe’s citizen engagement platform, Debating Europe, will engage European citizens through a series of focus groups on issues of high importance to Europe: the economy and cost-of-living crisis; Europe’s role in the world and strategic autonomy; democracy and the rule of law; and the European Green Deal. Data from the focus groups will inform and test the work of Friends of Europe.
  • A broad coalition on the Renewed Social Contract: this includes Friends of Europe’s Board of Trustees, European Young Leaders (EYL40), Senior Fellows, private sector partners, and other experts and knowledge partners.

    In addition to annual multisectoral and multistakeholder consultations, Friends of Europe will set up a series of working groups on the various policy areas identified in the ‘10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe’ report. These groups, set up for the 2024-29 period, will provide Friends of Europe with strategic guidance and foresight.

    Roadmap to 2030


    • Friends of Europe establishes its internal thinking on the Renewed Social Contract and ensures that it becomes the overarching narrative of the organisation’s work through 2030
    • State of Europe 2022 is the starting point for the definition of ‘10 policy choices for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe’
    • Friends of Europe launches its initiative on the role of the private sector in a Renewed Social Contract
    • Activity Report 2022: Friends of Europe and the Renewed Social Contract


    • Friends of Europe builds a coalition of the willing through a multi-sectoral, multidisciplinary approach to harvest and crowdsource ideas and thoughts on what issues should be prominent and prioritised in the ‘10 policy choices’ report
    • Friends of Europe further develops its initiative on the role of the private sector in a Renewed Social Contract
    • Debating Europe, Friends of Europe’s citizen engagement platform, conducts a series of focus groups gathering data from citizens on themes key to Europe’s future. The data is incorporated into the ‘10 policy choices’ report, enhancing credibility and weight
    • Friends of Europe partners with the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU for State of Europe and prepares for the forthcoming Belgian Presidency
    • The ‘10 policy choices’ report is discussed at the State of Europe, after which the report is consolidated with the outcomes of the conversations and finalised


    • The ‘10 policy choices’ report is released and disseminated with all European political families ahead of the European election campaign
    • A series of hybrid high-level debates during the electoral campaign brings together European citizens with political party and private sector representatives to discuss the ‘10 policy choices’
    • Following the European parliamentary elections in May 2024, Friends of Europe reflects on the outcome and implications for our work on the Renewed Social Contract
    • Dissemination of the ‘10 policy choices’ among the new European Parliament and Commission
    • Groups, composed of experts on the various policy areas identified in the ‘10 policy choices’ report, are established and remain active for the duration of the 2024-2029 European mandate, meeting periodically and at the State of Europe for an annual brainstorm

    2024 – 2027

    • Working groups continue to monitor progress and achievements towards the implementation of recommended policies for a Renewed Social Contract for Europe
    • Annual evaluation exercises take place at State of Europe high-level roundtables


    • Launch of final recommendations at State of Europe


    • Targeted campaign to socialise the recommendations among the new European Parliament and European Commission


    • Evaluation exercise

    The European Commission Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme

    Friends of Europe is a beneficiary of the European Commission Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme.
    The Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme was launched in 2021 and will run for seven years until 2027. It was created along with the 2021-2027 Justice programme under the Justice, Rights and Values Fund.
    The CERV programme seeks to support and develop open, rights-based, democratic, equal and inclusive societies based on the rule of law. That includes a vibrant and empowered civil society, encouraging people’s democratic, civic and social participation and cultivating the rich diversity of European society, based on our common values, history and memory.
    The CERV programme has four pillars:

    1. Equality, Rights and Gender Equality – promoting rights, non-discrimination, equality (including gender equality), and advancing gender and non-discrimination mainstreaming
    2. Citizens’ engagement and participation – promoting citizens engagement and participation in the democratic life of the Union, exchanges between citizens of different Member States, and raising awareness of the common European history
    3. Daphne – fight violence, including gender-based violence and violence against children
    4. Union values – protect and promote Union values

    Civil society organisations active at local, regional, national and transnational level, as well as other stakeholders, can apply to receive CERV funding for initiatives aimed at citizens’ engagement, equality for all and the protection and promotion of rights and EU values.


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