Report

September 22, 2021

Three Scenarios for Europe’s Conflict Landscape in 2030

In September 2020, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) conducted an expert workshop on the future of conflict for Europe. Participants from across the continent were invited to develop forward-looking scenarios for crises impacting European security up until 2030.

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Three Scenarios for Europe’s Conflict Landscape in 2030
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BUILDING THE SCENARIOS

The aim and purpose of this undertaking was to test a foresight methodology for developing an EU Civilian Capability Profile for EU crisis management. An important first step for this exercise was to sketch out a panorama of conflicts that the EU could be confronted with in and around 2030. Subsequently, the scenarios provided the foundation for an exercise in strategic planning. During follow-up sessions in October 2020, we established capability areas for possible civilian CSDP missions for the scenarios. Details and lessons learned can be found in the accompanying Policy Brief.

The foresight methodology that was used does not claim to predict the future, but rather to develop a probable version of the future. Exploring a well-thought-out possible future is an opportunity to improve early warning, more efficiently allocate resources, and future-proof overall decision-making. Therefore, this methodology can help the EU and its member states make long-term decisions about the future of EU civilian crisis management and its role in the EU’s external action toolbox. For this purpose, we tweaked a classic foresight methodology to accommodate our field of interest, and transferred it online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To ensure the relative likelihood that the EU would mandate a civilian mission and deploy experts in the crisis scenarios, we assigned to each working group a region with geographical proximity to Europe. Additionally, we made sure that the scenarios were diverse in terms of conflict type and theatre (urban, network and regional) in order to set the stage for the development of a comprehensive EU Civilian Capability Profile 2030. The three scenarios our participants developed depict a wide range of conflict aspects, ranging from nuclear waste fallout to the online distribution of deep-fake videos and the fight against propaganda narratives; from geopolitical clashes between major powers to confrontation with armed non-state groups and organized activist protests; from the consequences of climate change and government failure through cyber and financial warfare to state repression and surveillance with AI technology; from threats to cultural heritage and humanitarian issues to maritime security and freedom of navigation. This variety provided a robust foundation for the second step: capability derivation.

We would like to extend our gratitude to all our participants who, with their expert knowledge and inspiring ideas, made this exercise a success. Without their contributions and readiness to test this methodology, we could not have ventured into these unknown waters. It is thanks to them that we can present these scenarios and evaluate our experience in this Policy Brief.

 

The workshop series was conducted as part of a project financed by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

Bibliographic data

DGAP Report No. 18, September, 2021, 10 pp. 

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