EFP Brief. No. 214: Foresight Security Scenarios: Mapping Research to a Comprehensive Approach to Exogenous EU Roles (FOCUS)

FOCUS helps shape European security research to enable the EU to effectively respond to tomorrow’s challenges stemming from the globalisation of risks, threats and vulnerabilities. FOCUS concentrates on alternative future EU roles to prevent or respond to incidents situated on the ‘borderline’ between the internal and external dimensions of the security affecting the Union and its citizens. It does so by elaborating multiple scenarios, based on IT-supported foresight, in the form of alternative futures. These are plausibility-probed versus mere threat scenarios.

Foreseeing Exogenous Roles of the ‘EU 2035’ as a Comprehensive Security Provider to its Citizens

Through extrapolating the member states’ prerogative over security on the national scale, the Lisbon Treaty (2009) introduced the concept of the security of the European Union (EU) itself: Based on its new legal personality, the Union now aims ‘to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples’ (Article 3 Treaty on European Union). For the security of the Union and its citizens, it is the Union that ‘shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation’ (Article 21).

The Lisbon Treaty makes a quantum transition towards harmonisation in the field of civil protection against natural or man-made disasters: The Union ‘shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States’ (Article 196 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

The Treaty on European Union clearly establishes the Union as a whole as a security provider to its citizens, reaffirming its role as a global actor: ‘In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens’ (Article 3 Treaty on European Union).

Still mirroring the pre-Lisbon Treaty state of play, current practice of security research development in Europe is characterised by national focuses on a limited number of pre-defined missions or parallel scenarios that typically result from an analysis of specific national incidents, requirements or shortcomings. By contrast, FOCUS elaborates foresight-generated multiple scenarios in the form of alternative future tracks of security research topics, approaches and structures to introduce scenario planning from a European perspective and broaden the concept of security research.

The main idea of FOCUS is to develop multiple scenarios that function as common denominators for challenges (involving new tasks) whose causes are external to the territory of the Union, but whose consequences will be experienced on the territory of the Union and EU responses using tangible contributions from security research.

The work of FOCUS assists the EU, its member states, industry and other stakeholders to design a common approach to the contribution of security research to effectively cope with challenges arising from the globalisation of risks, threats and vulnerabilities before they deplete the EU’s ethical and societal legitimacy as a comprehensive security provider for its citizens.

FOCUS Objectives

FOCUS identifies and assesses alternative sets of future tracks for security research in FP7 and subsequent programmes that support the EU to adopt new roles in dealing with external threats, risks and vulnerabilities. The main contribution of the FOCUS project is the development of effective long-term prediction and assessment tools at the EU level.

Overall, FOCUS achieves the following six objectives, building upon each other:

  • Identify alternative sets of future tracks for security research in FP7 and subsequent programmes, supporting EU roles to deal with exogenous threats, risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Elaborate on the concept of transversality in assessing evolving needs for research across traditional disciplines, presently defined mission areas and throughout the security continuum.
  • Design and apply a specific scenario approach (‘embedded scenarios’). Base it on foresight to ensure openness, participation and inclusiveness (e.g. involvement of societal stakeholders), explicitly addressing security perceptions and security in relation to other values.
  • Produce an IT information infrastructure (by adapting existing information technologies) that will make material and tools for scenario planning of security research available to knowledge communities.
  • Enhance transparency, improve understanding and increase preparedness for the emerging challenges of the ‘external dimension’ and the ‘external-internal continuum’ of security and the evolution of security research.
  • Contribute to the planning of security research beyond the European Security Research Advisory Board (ESRAB) and European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF), based on foreseen EU roles rather than on pre-defined missions.

FOCUS Scenario Level

FOCUS scenarios are on the level of strategic forward thinking ‘on hold’, to increase the ability to cope with alternative futures in the world of 2035. The scenarios neither predict the future, nor do they state normative desired futures or ‘wishful thinking’. They represent the results of the multiple foresights conducted by FOCUS. The level of application of the scenarios is strategic EU roles and strategic levels of research planning. According to the task at hand, the scenarios do not address end-user (such as first responder) postures with a view to specific crisis management missions.

However, FOCUS comprises the exploration of its scenarios foresight approach and products, including the IT-based Knowledge Management Platform, for possible use beyond the immediate scope of the project, thus addressing, end-user posture scenarios.

FOCUS Method

FOCUS conducts foresight on an inclusive basis, making maximum use of its IT support in order to integrate multiple stakeholders, experts from a broad range of fields and the interested public to address security in relation to other societal as well as ethical values. This approach is especially important in the context of scenario planning in order to ensure that the selected policies and security technologies are responsive to the needs of citizens and that they create security approaches rooted in acceptance. FOCUS designs and applies an ‘embedded scenario’ method of integration. This delineates options for future tracks and broadened concepts of security research within broader scenarios that involve EU roles for responding to transversal challenges (whose causes are external but whose effects are internal to the EU).

This task is performed along the following five big themes as derived from environmental scanning and research done in preparation of the project:

  • Comprehensive approach: Alternative future tracks in further developing the comprehensive approach as followed by institutions and states, including links between the internal and external dimension of security.
  • Natural disasters and global environmental change: Scenarios for future EU roles in preparing for and responding to natural disasters and environment-related hazards, focused on comprehensive crisis management.
  • Critical infrastructure and supply chain protection: Scenarios for future EU roles centred on preventing, mitigating and responding to exogenous threats that could have a significant impact on EU citizens.
  • EU as a global actor: Alternative futures of the EU as a global actor based on the ‘wider Petersberg Tasks’, building on EU and member states instruments and capability processes.
  • EU internal framework: Scenarios for the evolution of the EU’s internal framework and prerequisites for delivering a comprehensive approach, including Lisbon treaty provisions and relevant strategies (e.g. for engagement with other international actors) as well as ethical acceptability and public acceptance.

Problem Space Descriptions for FOCUS’ Five Big Themes: EU Challenge 2035

FOCUS foresight is informed by problem space descriptions developed for each of the five big themes, also taking into account results of foresight work conducted in other European and international projects. The problem space descriptions also contain initial results of foresight, in the form of main challenges for future EU roles and supporting security research.

Comprehensive Approach

A comprehensive approach aims at overarching solutions to problems, with broad effects and based on complementarity of actors, while considering all available options and capabilities as well as the normative end-state of the security of society as a whole. A comprehensive approach also entails the tackling of crosscutting issues in home affairs, including civil protection. Challenges in the coming decades will continue to be fraught with uncertainty, involving state and non-state actors combining conventional and asymmetric methods. Cyber threats will also proliferate, with possible capabilities to organise a high-consequence attack against European critical infrastructures. Future research should include an emphasis on the advancement and integration of approaches to foresight, with special consideration of disruptors from normative (desired) end-states. It should also focus on the implementation perspective, with indicators for measuring the effectiveness of the comprehensive approach.

Natural Disasters & Global Environmental Change

Addressing natural hazards, with serious consequences on a regional level, FOCUS centres on major external threats to greater areas (outside and within the European Union) that may shape future roles of the EU as a comprehensive security provider: They can cause humanitarian crises of scales requiring a wide spectrum of responses, as they affect infrastructures and the human environment. Interactions of different hazards, multi-hazards, technological hazards, and the fact that human activity can initiate or influence processes and events will play an increasing role. Future research should act as a catalyst, integrating results from projects on natural hazards and their security aspects. However, this would require enhanced accessibility of previous studies and their results. Improved dissemination strategies will be required. Other topics could be anthropogenic (or ‘man-made’) natural disasters and multi-disciplinary scenarios of maximum credible natural events.

Critical Infrastructure & Supply Chain Protection

The most significant advancement on the EU level has been the introduction of the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP). EPCIP embraces an all-hazards approach, also covering natural disasters and intentional man-made hazards. Effective protection will need binding international and global rules since major infrastructures operate internationally or globally and threats can originate from any place in the world. Policy developments call for support by well-focused EU-level research along three main themes: First, a detailed assessment of interdependencies in the European Critical Infrastructure system, including dependencies on critical infrastructure in third countries; second, a catalogue of critical supplies for the European economy, along with factors that could disrupt supply; third, analyses of how the new mandate from the Lisbon Treaty together with enhanced civilian and dual-use capabilities could change the Union’s role, including interests to protect supplies from the third countries.

The EU as a Global Actor Based on the Wider Petersberg Tasks

The 2008 implementation review of the European Security Strategy (2003) stressed that the Union now disposed of an unmatched repertory of instruments and activities to foster human security and address underlying causes of insecurity and conflict. Based on this, the EU should contribute to renewing multilateralism at the global level. Instruments of EU global roles may include increased justice and law enforcement capabilities; increased EU intelligence and early warning capabilities; financial instruments for influencing economic developments on a global scale; good governance and institution building, including security sectors; or civil society-related and cultural instruments, including media, social networks, etc.

EU Internal Framework

Some of the EU’s vulnerabilities result from the fact that European strategies sometimes do not take into account lacking resources required for their implementation and do not fully consider organisational needs to effectuate awareness and increase resilience. While EU member states agreed on introducing the concept of the security of the Union as a whole into the Lisbon Treaty, both the political and the public sector vary considerably across countries in their perceptions and concepts of security. The concept of security in the EU so far has been the result of Union-level initiatives and national repertories of action. Member states continue to rely on distinguished symbols of what they value and safeguard. There are different public and citizen security cultures, which usually lead to clearly nationally informed priorities. Divergences of such kind notwithstanding, the future concept of security and security research can be expected to be informed by the European Security Model as outlined in the EU Internal Security Strategy. This includes addressing the causes of insecurity and not just its effects, with priorities on prevention across sectors (political, economic, social, etc.).

Towards a FOCUS Roadmap

FOCUS has so far identified the following seven cross-thematic key drivers for future challenges to the EU as a comprehensive civil security provider:

  • Globalisation and international system change
  • Changing modes of governance
  • Changing values and norms
  • Economic and social change
  • Technological change
  • Extent of common threat assessment
  • Consistency and coherence of future security research

Based on the problem space descriptions and the topical and cross-theme drivers identified, FOCUS will now perform in-depth foresight processes. At first, sets of EU roles per big theme will be developed in the form of context scenarios. Following on from this, alternative futures for security research in support of these roles will be constructed and further analysed. This will, among other things, result in a FOCUS roadmap proposal for the planning of future security research within the “Horizon 2020” framework.

FOCUS also establishes working relations with other foresight projects within and outside the EU, such as the ‘Strategic Foresight Initiative’ (SFI) of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Authors: Alexander Siedschlag                    siedschlag@european-security.info

Andrea Jerković                              jerkovic@european-security.info

Sponsors: European Commission, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry

Research Executive Agency (REA)

Type: 7th EU Framework Programme Security Research project
Organizer: CEUSS | Center for European Security Studies, Sigmund Freud University Vienna
Duration: 2011-2013 Budget: 4.2 m € Time Horizon: 2035 Date of Brief: Mar 2012  


Download EFP Brief No. 214_Foresight Security Scenarios

Sources and References


Summary of FOCUS problem space descriptions, http://www.focusproject.eu/documents/14976/5babb39b-d63c-4288-b7a6-ae321c0ef638

FOCUS Deliverable 2.1: Report describing and defining the methodology, http://www.focusproject.eu/documents/14976/aa0eb75f-a43a-4044-ad26-387bc68cc586

FOCUS Deliverable 3.2: Alternative futures of the comprehensive approach, http://www.focusproject.eu/documents/14976/e3fe4a14-e7f6-4a98-9e66-70d5f1e4a028


FOCUS project website: http://www.focusproject.eu

FOCUS Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/focus.fp7

FUSER group on Xing: https://www.xing.com/net/fuser