‘Wise man’ calls for EU strategic planning body

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A permanent body dealing with long-term thinking and strategic planning must be created within the EU institutions, Žiga Turk, secretary-general of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe, told EURACTIV in an interview.

There is "a very clear lack of long-term thinking towards the European Union's institutions and long-term strategic planning," said Turk, who drew his conclusions over the past year-and-a-half while preparing background papers for the members of the Reflection Group.

Finding literature to help the group draft its final report was no easy task, said Turk, who is a former Slovenian minister and a professor at the Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering at the University of Ljubljana.

He explained that the group had mainly used American or Chinese literature, or in some cases texts coming from the member states, but there was "a very clear knowledge gap" within the EU institutions "as to what kind of studies and analyses existed" on Europe.

Turk says some elements of strategic planning existed in the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Seville and in the Commission's Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), but "very little" within the Council and the European Parliament.

"If the [Reflection Group] Secretariat would be in the position to propose one of the recommendations in this report, it would be that Europe needs a strategic forward-thinking body within or in combination with the Commission, Council and Parliament," Turk said.

Turk also saw a relationship between such a body and the follow-up to the Reflection Group. He advocated that the place for such a body should be in the Council.

"Without a follow-up, the Reflection Group report would be just another document. Indeed, the follow-up could come in different ways. To make the group permanent is one way. To spin it off into an institutional setting is another. To be taken forward by another institution is the third," he said.

Turk also conveyed the message that the Reflection Group members, who devoted one-and-a-half years to compiling the report, would like to see "greater impact, more discussions, explaining [and] promoting" of their work. In the meantime, EURACTIV learned that a "big event" to promote the report's findings had been postponed until the autumn (EURACTIV 17/05/10).

He said all group members had realised that the response to the economic crisis was overshadowing the González group report, but added: "There is a feeling that the leaders in Europe do not have the luxury to look at the long term."

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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