Project: Trajectories of Change – Strategic Foresight for EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood

Focused debate on the future EU enlargement policies

12 July 2023

Visegrad Insight, Res Publica Foundation partnered with ZEIT-Stiftung in a major initiative, Trajectories of Change – Strategic Foresight for EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood.

The Trajectories of Change project brings together academic and policy networks in Europe to provide policy recommendations for EU enlargement, with a focus on the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods. The project aims to facilitate input from civil society stakeholders, focusing on strategic considerations for the EU’s Southern neighbourhood and the Eastern Flank, including enlargement talks with Ukraine and Moldova. The project will end with advocacy campaigns among EU member states and is supported by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

Download project publication: Costs of non-enlargement – a foresight report on EU enlargement and neighbourhood


11 March, 2024, Berlin, dbb Forum

On 11 March, we continued the discussion on the Costs of Non-Enlargement, presenting our report in Berlin. The roundtable discussion was opened by initial remarks made by Miriam Kosmehl from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. What ensued was a lively debate featuring diverse contributions from the leading experts in the field, including one of the authors of the ‘Franco-German report’ – Thu Nguyen. The conversation was marked by feedback coming from representatives of Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik, Süddeutsche Zeitung, German Council on Foreign Relations, and European Stability Initiative as well.

Photos by Hans Scherhaufer

6 March 2024, Brussels, European Economic and Social Committee

At the beginning of March, we showcased the “Costs of Non-enlargement” report at the European Council and the European Commission as well as discussed it with diplomats, think tanks and MEP advisors. The Costs of Non-enlargement offers a fresh perspective in the enlargement discussion. All too often, we talk about the potential costs or benefits of enlargement, not reflecting on the unintended consequences that broken enlargement promises would have for the future of the continent.

The report launch marks a new phase of extensive dialogue that we will be having with policymakers and experts in the coming months. It began with a closed-door event on 5 March with representatives of the candidate countries and member states, alongside the advisor to the Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

On the following day, our team met with the representatives from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, followed by a meeting in the European Council with the representative of the General Secretariat. The report launch in Brussels culminated with an open discussion organised within the Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism. The discussion was marked by contributions from the leading voices in the enlargement debate, the Centre for European Policy Studies, Carnegie Europe and European Parliament advisors, among others.


Photos by Edouard Gilles

10-14 July 2023, Akademie Sankelarkt: Enlargement Consortium

A week-long strategic foresight session involving analysts and policy-makers from the EU and European neighbourhood.

Experts, organisers and a visiting speaker – Lisa Yasko, member of the Ukrainian parliament, Foreign Affairs Commission

18-19 April 2023, Brussels: foresight discussion and workshop No. 2

Our second workshop, starting on 18 April, focused on civil resilience against populism and the rise of autocrats. Discussions with Jerzy Pomianowski, head of the European Endowment for Democracy, centred on the need for a hybrid civil response to hybrid threats. We examined case studies highlighting the indispensable role of civil society in countering disinformation campaigns. Building on the tasks from the first workshop, participants formulated long-term scenarios for Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods, identifying potential disruptors. In the evening, we hosted a discussion with EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčak, exploring the driving logic of accession talks in the Western Balkans and considering improvements.

The second day continued with foresight activities on developments in the Southern Neighbourhood. The workshop concluded with a discussion at the Prague House, led by the ambassador of the Czech Republic to the EU, Edita Hrdá, focusing on the achievements of the Czech Presidency in the European Council and strategizing how the enlargement agenda could feature prominently in future presidencies.

27-28 March 2023, Brussels: foresight discussion and workshop No. 1

The initiative began with a two-day workshop in Brussels, where participants engaged with MEP Andrius Kubilius and MEP Radek Sikorski. Both emphasised the importance of resolving the conflict in Ukraine and achieving democratisation in Russia as prerequisites for any Eastern enlargement. The resolution of this conflict would also have significant implications for the Western Balkans. However, Ukraine’s potential accession poses challenges for the European Union, including a shift in EU policy towards the East, a possible decrease in average living standards, budgetary changes for Central and Eastern European states, and the need to address the impact on the EU’s agricultural market. Enlargement in the Western Balkans would also require treaty modifications due to the addition of six new member states from the same region.

During the workshop, discussions with Katarina Mathernova, Deputy Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission, focused on the enlargement process in the Western Balkans. While progress has been made in the Eastern Partnership countries, significant obstacles remain in the Western Balkans and the Southern Neighbourhood. The EU’s commitment to normative values and promoting democracy and human rights in the Southern Neighbourhood has yielded mixed results, and stability in the region may become a priority.

Throughout the workshop, participants engaged in a strategic foresight process to develop long-term scenarios for the Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods. They identified various triggers and drivers that would shape the EU’s policy towards its neighbours, including the war in Ukraine, foreign policy interests of Russia, China, and the United States, technological decoupling from China, illegal migration, populism, EU arms procurement, fiscal crises, and demographic changes. Strategic Foresight was recognised as a valuable tool for policy-making by Thomas Hemmelgarn from the European Commission’s Policy Lab, highlighting its role in budgetary considerations and initiatives such as Horizon. The aim is to anticipate and mitigate problems before they escalate, although criticism may arise if a crisis occurs and it is perceived that sufficient warnings were not provided.

Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director-General DG NEAR and participants

Meeting with Andrius Kubilius MEP – former prime minister of Lithuania
Andrius Kubilius, Anna Hofmann, Wojciech Przybylski and workshop participants
Nikola Dimitrov and Wojciech Przybylski
Radosław Sikorski MEP, former Speaker of Sejm and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland

About this Project

Trajectories of Change – Strategic Foresight for EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood fosters exchange between academic and policy networks in Europe and provides policy briefs and recommendations related to the dynamics of EU enlargement with a particular focus on Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods.

This project aims to facilitate the constructive input of academic networks in the upcoming debate about the long-term vision on the future of Europe. It seeks to overcome an image of recalcitrance associated with the Southern and Eastern Neighbourhoods by elaborating on concrete proposals through extensive workshops, consultations and policy interventions on the future of Europe from the perspective of civil society stakeholders. By means of extensive discussions, horizon-scanning, and trend analysis, it gives voice to actors that may not be heard through conventional and state-led channels.

With the Spanish presidency, the question of the EU’s Southern neighbourhood should become a serious focus for strategic considerations. , not only in terms of managing migrations from Africa and the Middle East but also when it comes to the large-scale international role that Africa will play within the next few decades. At the same, the developments in the Eastern Flank of the EU have plainly revealed a shift of power to the east. The recent enlargement talks with Ukraine and Moldova have opened a new chapter in Europe’s strategic gaze towards the Eastern Neighbourhood. With Ukraine’s accession prospects, the sluggish and difficult enlargement process with the Western Balkan countries has become reinvigorated. All those developments, in Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods alike, translate into a time of integration processes that “Trajectories of Change” aim to facilitate.

The project begins with two-day workshops with leading policymakers and stakeholders at the heart of European policymaking in Brussels. These inter-disciplinary and multi-university workshops will be conducted with a particular focus on the Southern and Eastern neighbourhood regions. Throughout those two days, participants will be plugged into strategic foresight planning under the guidance of experts in the field.

The workshop sessions will serve as an introduction to a broad array of activities planned for the rest of the year, centred around the policy initiatives of the Commission on the Global Priorities, alongside the EU 2023 Spanish presidency of the Council. The following steps of the project will include a summer retreat, followed by drafting a series of policy briefs for interventions, culminating in advocacy campaigns among EU member states. Those four components of the programme will ensure an active contribution towards the dynamics of EU enlargement with a particular focus on Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods.

The ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius was established in 1972 by German lawyer and publisher Gerd Bucerius, and his liberal and cosmopolitan perspective shapes the foundation’s activities up to this day. It provides PhD students scholarships and creates interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange opportunities. Convinced that the representation of scientific perspectives in public discourse is vital for democratic decision-making, the foundation facilitates interactions between academia, the public and politics. It promotes quality journalism, focusing on supporting the free media landscape in Eastern Europe.

About Strategic Foresight

Strategic foresight is a powerful analytical method that helps multinational organisations and institutions navigate in times of uncertainty. 

Utilizing strategic foresight, Visegrad Insight – Res Publica Foundation develops plausible scenarios for democratic security in Europe and actionable policy options. We work with a comprehensive network of experts and eminent leaders across Central and Eastern Europe. With a focus on major strategic decisions ahead, we analyse the impact of megatrends, conduct horizon scanning, and host scenario-building workshops. The scenarios generate a future-oriented public debate in Europe to inform decision-making best. 

In 2023 Visegrad Insight’s work focuses on three key areas: EU policies’ impact on democratic security, the future of EU enlargement and neighbourhood, and scenarios for the European elections 2024. 

Our strategic foresight is powered by: the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., the National Endowment for Democracy, the ZEIT Foundation, META, the International Visegrad Fund, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office UK, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the European Commission.

Strategic Foresight by Visegrad Insight

In-house programme dedicated to analysing impactful trends, mapping out potential scenarios and generating weekly and monthly foresights.


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