Areas of Expertise

Explore the nine topics on which we base our work

Energy and Climate

After 20 years of negotiations, 195 countries signed the Paris agreement to limit global warming. The focus now moves to implementation, and success will depend on the support and contribution of all – including industry, citizens, regions and cities.

We look at the role of regulation, competition, innovation, and the impact of consumption and production in sectors such as agriculture and transport (especially aviation and maritime transport). We debate the merits of different low-carbon economic models (including beyond growth and the circular economy).

We develop ideas on a viable energy system to integrate renewables and decentralise energy production, and consider the role of geopolitics.

Health and Wellbeing

Demographic shifts, greater demand and the prolonged economic crisis are putting European health systems under extreme pressure.

We look at how the obstacles of vested interests and short-term political thinking can be overcome in the difficult transition to new healthcare models and systems – and how these new systems can be financed.

We focus on health inequalities, lifestyle, geography and environmental factors, and new healthcare challenges such as antimicrobial resistance. We look at how patients can be put at the centre of healthcare, and how Europe’s life science expertise can promote innovation.

We also debate Europe’s role in shaping healthcare governance globally, covering sustainable development, poverty, hunger and diseases

Asia, Africa and Emerging Economies

Europe’s relationship with Asia and Africa is expanding, reflecting the increasing global importance of emerging economies. We track these developments through our Asia Programme and Europe-China Forum, and through our work looking at the EU vision and strategy towards China, India, Japan and ASEAN, and its role in the Asia-Europe Meeting.

Our work on Africa highlights Africa’s key priorities and challenges, including the demographic explosion, sustainable development needs, the expansion of infrastructure and the growth of the services and agriculture sectors.

Whether on trade, climate change or other issues, emerging economies in Latin America, Asia and Africa are important partners for Europe in ensuring more efficient and equitable global governance.

Peace, Security and Defence

The 9/11 terrorist attacks signalled a seismic shift in global security and the emergence of a fluctuating multipolar system. Military endeavours must be combined with economic, judicial and democratic capacity-building to build sustainable peace.

The digital revolution has yielded both opportunities and challenges. The global financial crisis shook the economic system and harmed citizens’ trust in institutions. Now there are major questions about the European project, transatlantic relations and the future of NATO.

The EU has recognised connections between security, defence, development and economic, environmental, migration and social policies, but strategic thinking, defence and security budgets, structures and capabilities are yet to be adapted to the 21st-century landscape. Our work seeks to ensure a ‘whole of society’ approach to peace, security and defence.

International Development

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.

The DPF network is a major partner in the expanding global and European conversation on sustainable and inclusive development. Through its activities and publications, the DPF encourages fresh thinking on issues such as Agenda 2030, new financing models for growth and development, humanitarian assistance and the role of women in development. Our aim is to raise awareness of development issues and to encourage fresh ideas and thinking on global challenges.

Education and Skills

The ability to read, write and count are key elements of education, but many thousands of European school-leavers lack these basic skills. Meanwhile the digital revolution is transforming how we learn and how we work – something not always reflected in school curriculums.

We need to consider carefully how best to give young people the skills, knowledge, intellectual curiosity and capacity to think that will help them achieve their potential, and seek the best possible model of education to meet varying needs. Gender, ethnicity, disability and background continue to be factors in determining unequal education outcomes.

The role of the state and its accountability for providing basic education has been put into question, and education budgets squeezed. We alsoexamine how we prepare the education infrastructure – systemically and within schools – to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

Migration and Integration

Migration and integration are not new to Europe, but the current refugee and migrant crisis is on a scale unseen for decades. Europe’s institutions and national governments have yet to forge proper responses – but rising tensions point to the need for a realistic and comprehensive policy that addresses both challenges and opportunities.

Integration issues, if not addressed effectively, will only serve to fuel discontent and create divisions. Policymakers need to avoid emotion and quick-fixes, and see migration and integration as an asset rather than a threat.

Bad experiences are instructive and point to the need for effective management of these issues. So too do the potential benefits – growth, stability, and strengthened values.

New Economic Models

The financial crisis has profoundly affected our confidence in an economic model that has prevailed for decades. The limitations of monetary policy have come into sharp focus, notably its inability to discriminate between regions, sectors or individuals – and, in the eurozone, countries too. Even as gross domestic product has recovered, household incomes have stagnated and poverty levels among those of working age have increased.

Refashioning capitalism and economics is an urgent quest in the early part of the century. But is another approach possible? Can we find different measures of success, rather than gross domestic product, using wellbeing and societal progress? And can we learn from the past to ensure that we understand and do not repeat mistakes?

Citizens' Europe

Brexit looms large on the EU's agenda, and with the tide of populism narrowly missing many member states there is a need to update and reform the Brussels institutions and make sure that they work for European citizens.

But equally, 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. The aim of Debating Europe is 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.

Debating Europe has built an active Europe-wide following of more than 250,000 people on Twitter and Facebook. We have received more than 100,000 comments from more than 2.2 million unique users on the platform. Its aim is to make high-level European policy issues accessible to Europe’s youth.