Hour-en-Famenne, August 29, 2017

If we set aside the political tactics, the individual frustrations of certain elected representatives and the bitterness of recent weeks during the summer of 2017 and regard them as setbacks, we might ponder the partial changes in majority in Wallonia in the light of the possible trajectories envisaged before the process initiated by Guy Lutgen, president of the Human Democratic Centre, or cdH, on 18 June 2017. An analysis of this kind had been carried out in 2016 by a group of independent actors and experts as part of the preparation for a conference organised by the Open University and the University of Mons (UMONS), in Charleroi [1]. This exercise was continued in 2017 with the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia, resulting in a Manifesto published in the journal L’Echo in March 2017 [2]. How should we try to interpret this at the end of August 2017?

First of all, we must consider the fact that those who had identified future bifurcations for Wallonia envisaged them only at the time of the next regional elections, in 2019 or 2024 – it is worth repeating that bifurcations are moments when the system can evolve in several directions and it follows one of the options open to it. Those observers did not necessarily see such bifurcations in changes in political majority, but thought instead that the scale of the expected transformation required an examination of the strength of the policies adopted, the problem being that the elected representatives in the majority that came to power in 2014 did not seem willing to implement them. As is often the case, incidentally, most of the elected representatives were concentrating on the demands of public opinion, as reported or stimulated by the press: providing responses to an effect of the disease symbolised by the benefits received by the ruling elite [3] rather than to the particularly disturbing socio-economic signals emerging from the actors and researchers [4].

The June 2017 wild-card

However, if we try to anticipate the bifurcations in order to prepare for them, and this was indeed the case for the elections in 2019 and 2024, we tend to forget that trajectories do not necessarily originate within the expected timescales: they may materialise spontaneously depending on their centre of gravity and the impetus they provide. This is what is called a wild-card, a major surprise or an unexpected, surprising and unlikely event that may have considerable impact if it occurs. In the exercise carried out on the trajectories for Wallonia, the experts chose various centres of gravity. However, they examined the uniqueness of the institutions of Wallonia and the political parties and identified the Elysette, the meeting place of the government, as the seat of regional power. This logic is fairly consistent, for example, with the bifurcation at the elections on 13 June 1999, with the emergence of the Rainbow government and the introduction of the Future Contract for Wallonia at the instigation of Minister-President Elio Di Rupo. This bifurcation offered a trajectory of potential transformation. We also know that clear bifurcations, major opportunities for change, might also not offer any positive change, as was the case with the communitisation of education in 1989 in which, ultimately, almost nothing happened due to the lack of an appropriate financing law and of any desire to change an educational model that clearly needed changing. But that, as Rudyard Kipling once wrote, is another story.

What we forget, however, and what may explain the events of this summer, is that the centre of gravity of the Wallonia trajectory has, to date, been located in the Elysette only to a very limited extent. Elio Di Rupo, who rose rapidly to become president of the Socialist Party, realised this in 1999 since he felt that the Boulevard de l’Empereur, headquarter of that party, restricted his political activity. In retrospect, there are two bifurcation moments that clearly illustrate the importance of the centre of gravity represented by the political parties. The first took place in 1997, just twenty years ago. The second was in 2005.

The Forgotten Bifurcation

1997: the president of the Christian Social Party (PSC) instigates a new Regional Policy Declaration (DPR)

Since 1994, Robert Collignon had led a Socialist-Christian Social coalition in the Wallonia Region. The Minister-President, who was in charge of the economy, was pursuing a policy of strengthening the existing centres of excellence: biogenetics and pharmaceuticals in Walloon Brabant, aeronautics in Charleroi, astronautics in Liège, environment in the Mons-Borinage region, water in Verviers, agrifoods in Gembloux, etc. He also restructured the steel industry and its three centres: Cockerill-Sambre, Forges de Clabecq and Boël La Louvière. However, at the end of May 1997, based on evidence that the economy of Wallonia was ailing, the President of the PSC (now the cdH), Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb, advocated a new regional policy declaration with some major reorientations to tackle both the economic and the political issues that had arisen in Wallonia. For the Christian Social president, it was a question of rebuilding people’s trust [5]. Since the first quarter of 1993, Wallonia industrial production had undergone a period of decline [6]. But of greater concern to the analysts assembled by the PSC were the comparisons they were drawing with Flanders over the long term: in particular, an unemployment rate that was twice as high in the south, an annual growth slowdown of 0.5 to 1%, a worrying investment rate and a negative trade balance[7]. For the PSC, and in particular for member of Parliament André Antoine, these economic problems were accompanied by a lack of public regulation [8]. A supplementary regional policy declaration was adopted in November 1997 and acted as a valuable recovery plan by promoting decompartmentalisation and transversality of action, calling for leadership from a Minister-President who had influence over his team, and offering new initiatives [9]. Seven years later, the 2004-2009 DPR indicated that an initial step towards recovery had been achieved by the 1997 supplementary regional policy declaration [10].

2005: the presidents of the cdH and the PS evoke the Marshall Plan

The second example is no longer fresh in people’s minds, even though the initiative continues to be at the heart of the political debates in Wallonia. It was June 2005 and Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe had been leading the government of Wallonia for five years. Since the 2004 elections, the Christian Socialists had replaced Liberals and Socialists as partners of the Socialists. The new DPR, mentioned above, stated as follows: Wallonia is recovering. But its economic weakness was so intense that the road to prosperity is still long! And then the phrase which has become a mantra for positive minds: One thing is certain: Wallonia has stopped declining [11].

But a year later, while the government was calmly undertaking its legislative work and implementing this regional policy declaration, cdH President Joëlle Milquet and PS President Elio Di Rupo, in turn, called for mobilisation. I’m calling for genuine Walloon action, declared the PS leader. We need a Marshall Plan for Wallonia that requires real ownership and accountability from everyone (government, unions, bosses, universities, teachers, organisations). It’s urgent. It is imperative that we all quantify the actions to be implemented and measure their effectiveness. We know that there are problems in Wallonia despite an improvement which, whatever people say, is still insufficient. The government has taken some positive steps through its strategic plan to stimulate activity. But the best measures in the world are worthless if they are not implemented on the ground. We must all roll up our sleeves; we are at a pivotal moment in Wallonia’s history [12]. Once again, it was clear, as reported by the journalist Didier Grogna at the time, that the President of the Socialist Party was aware of the worsening economic situation in Wallonia and the criticisms levelled at the Socialist partner by cdH vice-president André Antoine, especially concerning the problems experienced by the Minister-President in fulfilling his mandate. As the L’Echo columnist explained: We must shift mindsets and dare to say « no » to Socialist sub-localism; we must be bold enough to shake up the acquired rights and some of the « questionable » behaviour within the public bodies. It seems increasingly unlikely that Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe will be able to stay the course for the entire legislature. It appears inevitable that he will be replaced. But by whom? Who will dare to confront the local political bosses who have not been held to account for decades? Wallonia needs a Marshall Plan; that means putting political differences aside and all moving in the same direction[13]. Thus, throughout the summer of 2005, the government of Wallonia was bypassed by the presidents of both parties who, themselves, presented the Priority Plan for Wallonia to the press and, it seems, to the government. The PS and the cdH remained united or, in any event, given the agenda of the declarations in 2005 and 1997, the Socialist presidents adopted the Christian Socialists’ state of mind and expressed their own position alongside them. It is clear that the relations between Nothomb and Busquin were very constructive, as were those between Elio Di Rupo and Joëlle Milquet subsequently. Those relationships were clearly not working in 2017 since, for the first time since it came into being, therefore nearly 25 years, the constructive no-confidence ejector seat was activated to the detriment of the Socialists.

As we can see, 1997 and 2005 represent forced bifurcations, probably even wild-cards, originating from the centre of gravity of the political parties that formed the government majority, and they may help with our understanding of 2017.

A trajectory of hope, two years ahead of time

What seems to have been the problem in early summer 2017 is not so much the issue of the poor governance that has seriously affected almost the entire political world in Wallonia, but rather the convergence of opinion between these « matters » and the now evident inability to respond to the maldevelopment in Wallonia. Admittedly, in the strategy put forward by cdH President Benoît Lutgen, it was these cases of poor governance that constituted the casus belli, which caused scepticism among a number of observers since the cdH itself was also not exempt from criticism. However, as the leader of the Christian Social group reminded the gallery in the Parliament of Wallonia on 28 July, it would be wrong to downplay the signs which confirmed, in 1997 and in 2005, that Wallonia was not on the right road to recovery, since they came from the Economic and Social Council, the universities and the Business Association of Wallonia (Union wallonne des Entreprises). The trend trajectory, entitled Au fil de l’eau… usée, written in February 2016 by the working party assembled for the initiative organised by the Open University and UMONS, is particularly revealing. I quote as follows:

If we practice governance from another time, with an artificial evaluation and a lack of anticipation, if we are incapable of dealing with budgetary challenges and social and territorial cohesion challenges, if we are unable to survive electoral shocks in 2019 and 2024, the seventh reform of the State and the structuring of the skills and resources dedicated to teaching, training, research, etc., we will jeopardise regional cohesion. Wallonia would then experience a downward spiral that would challenge Walloon social and territorial cohesion.

It should be noted that the working party addressed the issues of future symmetries or asymmetries between coalitions at the various power levels and therefore the possibilities of accepting them more normally and more sincerely than in the current onerous climate of dissension. The participants also noted that political life in Wallonia is characterised by its stability concerning a central point, namely the permanence of the Socialist Party in power, with the resulting dominance across the entire political and administrative landscape. As one of the rapporteurs writes, by refraining, however, from expressing political opinions, and especially preferences, it is arguable that (sometimes, often, …) this stability may be confused, or risks being confused, with a certain rigidity. Yet the theory that the PS might be relegated to regional opposition is not beyond the realm of possibility: this is demonstrated by the results of the 2007 legislative elections and the remarkable scope given to the « little » Ecolo parties and the cdH to choose their « major » partner for federal coalitions in 2009. Whatever we think, and whatever the consequences (particularly institutional and administrative), this fundamental change in political habits would represent a major discontinuity in the regional common thread.

Admittedly, alternative trajectories were expected and they will, perhaps, be reviewed to establish whether they are the ones that the bifurcation of summer 2017 will bring. However, it is my conviction that, in addition to what might be a political game and contrary to what was said the day after this bifurcation, Wallonia, in the way that it was being run by the Magnette-Prévot government, was not on the road to recovery. Not because its policies were inadequate – both camps praised the Marshall Plan, its competitiveness centres, Creative Wallonia, the Digital Plan, etc., and the initiative of the Socialist Minister for the Economy, Jean-Claude Marcourt –, but because the mobilisation of the actors was not addressed and sufficient resources had not been allocated to the recovery and therefore to allow the economy to take off.

If we accept this idea, the new bifurcation undoubtedly represents the hope that stems from a transformative, regenerative trajectory that may finally materialise for Wallonia. This is the current rhetoric of the new government led by Willy Borsus. Admittedly, rhetoric is not a trajectory. If the new Minister-President succeeds in mobilising the men, women and resources in Wallonia to realise our redeployment ambitions, the change in majority will allow the regeneration to happen two years ahead of time, which is valuable particularly for those who have suffered from Wallonia’s maldevelopment for too long.


Philippe Destatte


[1] Philippe DESTATTE, Les trajectoires prospectives de la Wallonie (2016-2036), in Virginie de MORIAME and Giuseppe PAGANO, Où va la Wallonie? Actes du cycle de conférences UO-UMONS, p. 65-87, Charleroi, Open University, 2016. – Blog PhD2050, Charleroi, 25 February 2016,

[2] Wallonie, la trajectoire socio-économique, résolument, in L’Echo, 10 March 2017.

[3] I use this term in the Russian sense employed by Alain Rey which refers to the members of the regime who are entitled to exceptional prerogatives. A. REY dir. Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, p. 2389, Paris, Le Robert, 2006.

[4] See inter alia the convergence of the following analyses: Regards sur la Wallonie 2016, Liège, CESW, June 2016. – Etudes sur la situation de l’entreprise, Portrait des Entreprises en Wallonie, Evolution, Wavre, UWE, 08/2016. – Séries statistiques du marché du travail en Wallonie, Namur, IWEPS, December 2016. – Communiqué de presse du 10 février 2017 relatif aux comptes régionaux, Brussels, Banque nationale, Institut des Comptes nationaux, 4 p. – Paola ANNONI, Lewis DIJKSTRA & Nadia GARGANO, The EU Regional Competitiveness Index 2016, WP02/2017, European Commission, Regional and Urban Policy, 2017. – Rapport sur l’économie wallonne 2017, Namur-Liège, SOGEPA – SPW-DGO6 – IWEPS, February 2017. – Didier PAQUOT, Economie wallonne: 15 ans de plans de redressement, où en est-on? Speech to the Financial Forum of the Banque nationale, Louvain-la-Neuve, Ephec, 27 April 2017.

[5] Nothomb réclame une nouvelle déclaration, in L’Echo, 27 May 1997. – Nothomb réclame un grand pacte social: « Quand le temps du devoir de deuil sera passé, il faudra redonner confiance aux gens, Interviewed by Vincent JUMEAU and Jean-Léon WAUTERS, in L’Echo, 24 May 1997.

[6] Tendances économiques, SES, no.16, June 1999, p. 38.

[7] Une Wallonie moderne, Congrès de Liège du 24 mai 1997, Actes, p. 16sv, Brussels, PSC, 1997.

[8] André ANTOINE, De la nécessité de sortir du pragmatisme sous-régional en Wallonie, dans Une Wallonie moderne, Congrès de Liège du 24 mai 1997, Actes, p. 56-58, Brussels, PSC, 1997.

[9] Marnix BEYEN and Philippe DESTATTE, Un autre pays, Nouvelle histoire de Belgique 1970-2000, [volume 9 of the Nouvelle Histoire politique de la Belgique contemporaine de 1830 à nos jours, under the direction of Michel Dumoulin, Vincent Dujardin and Mark Van den Wijngaert], coll. Histoire, p. 272-273, Brussels, Le Cri, 2009, 428 p.

[10] Déclaration de politique régionale 2004-2009, p. 3, slnd, 2004, p. 3, 153 p.

[11] Ibidem.

[12] Elio Di Rupo appelle à un “sursaut” wallon et veut mettre fin au sous-localisme, Interview, in L’Echo, 11 June 2005.

[13] Didier GROGNA, L’argent n’est pas tout, in L’Echo, 8 June 2005.


Boston, April 30, 2018

In order to conclude the symposium Grappling with the Futures, Insights from History, Philosophy, and Science, Technology and Society, hosted in Boston by Harvard University (Department of the History of Science) and Boston University (Department of Philosophy) on Sunday, April 29 and Monday, April 30, 2018, the organizers wanted to hear about related organizations or initiatives. They wanted to both learn more about them and figure out the potential added value of these possible new additions to the network, which should not duplicate existing ones and should foster mutually beneficial synergies. We therefore heard from Ted Gordon for the Millennium Project, Keri Facer for the Anticipation Conference, Cynthia Selin for the Arizona State University initiatives, Terry Collins for the Association of Professional Futurists, Philippe Durance for the CNAM, Jenny Andersson and Christina Garsten for the Global Foresight Project[1], and myself for The Destree Institute. This paper is a revised version of my short contribution given in this final panel.

 1. A Trajectory from Local to Global

Some groups mainly know The Destree Institute as a local NGO with quite a long history (it will be 80 years old in June 2018) of modest size (10 researchers), a foundation that operates as a ‘think and do tank’ and is close to the Parliament of Wallonia and government, a partner of the regional administration and very open to the world of entrepreneurship. It works at the crossroads between five or six universities in cross-border collaboration. Twenty years ago now, after 15 years of research in history and future studies, The Destree Institute created its Foresight Unit, supplementing this last year with a laboratory of collective, public and entrepreneurial policies for Wallonia in Europe: the Wallonia Policy Lab [2]. Its work in this area is intellectually supported by a Regional Foresight College consisting of 30 leaders from various spheres of society.

To others, The Destree Institute is first and foremost a European and global research Centre in the field of foresight, a worldwide NGO with a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and an official partner of UNESCO (with consultative status) since 2012; a member of the Open Government Partnership Civil Society Community; a founder of the Brussels Area Node of the Millennium Project; a leading partner of many European initiatives; and the headquarters of the Millennia2025 Women and Innovation Foundation, a global foresight initiative for women’s empowerment and equality, involving more than 10,000 members, researchers and grassroots workers in five continents, whose international foresight research process was launched in 2008 with the support of the Millennium Project and the patronage of UNESCO’s Director-General.

Both views are correct. The Destree Institute’s development from a local history research Centre in Wallonia to a European and global foresight actor is easily traced; at the same time, it has succeeded in maintaining strong local roots.

One of the main ambitions and achievements of The Destree Institute lies in its ability to develop a strong operational conception of foresight. We use foresight not only to think about the future but to shift the system, to trigger transition and transformation. Far from just thinking that one could modify the future simply by looking at it, Gaston Berger – whose importance has been emphasized by the organizers of the symposium – saw change as a process that is hard to implement and difficult to conduct, as the American researchers in social psychology whose models inspired him had shown. Berger particularly referred to the theories of change and transformation processes described by Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, Jeanne Watson and Bruce Westley[3]. With this in mind, we developed in 2010 a tool named the Bifurcation Method (in the sense of ‘bifurcations’ used by Nobel Prize-Winner Ilya Prigogine) in order to identify the different moments when the system, or a part of it, or an actor, could take different directions or trajectories. We first apply this tool to the past in what we call the retroforesight phase, identifying trajectories that could have been taken at particular past moments and what developments would have ensued. We can then use the techniques of foresight to try to identify bifurcations and trajectories in the future, using institutional rendezvous, assumptions and wildcards, events of low probability but with high impacts which can open up the cone of the future and cause movement in the system.

In this way, we are able to structure concrete operational work drawing on the kind of expertise described during the symposium by historians, philosophers, STS experts and others.

2. History does not hold the keys to the future

From History to Foresight is also the title of a well-known book by Pierre Chaunu [4]. It was written by the great French historian and Sorbonne professor in 1975 for a collection named Liberty 2000.

Chaunu wrote that a good reading of the present, integrating the past, leads imperceptibly to the future. It is, by nature, foresight-oriented [5]. He added that this foresight is, of course, linked to the idea of mankind. It therefore involves the « unfolding » of history [6]. He also observed: History does not hold the keys to the future. It cannot map out the path, but a history that is made part of the human sciences can correct us; it can impose a check on infantile projections that are captive to the short term [7]. I think that the integration of future studies in the human sciences will always remain a real and difficult challenge.

Those who were able to attend the Harvard meeting certainly feel, as I do, that more than 40 years after Chaunu’s analysis, we are fully on track to achieve the aims that the main organizer Yashar Saghai (Johns Hopkins University) proposed at the opening of the symposium for the meeting and its follow-up: to end isolation within each discipline (history, philosophy, science, technology and society) and between countries, to learn from each other in depth beyond interdisciplinary conferences, to gain an up-to-date knowledge of current research, to deepen connections with future studies practitioners and theorists. Yashar also insisted on the importance of probing the needs for a permanent network or platform for our communities. The challenge is, as Riel Miller said in his keynote address but also in his new book[8], to reinforce our understandings, practices and capacities.

3. Main requirements for a permanent network or platform

With its partners, The Destree Institute has launched and/or managed many networks and platforms in the last twenty years: the Millennia2015 foresight process, the Millennia2025 Foundation, the Internet Society Wallonia Chapter, the European Regional Foresight College, the European Millennium Project Nodes Initiative (EuMPI), the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia, the Wallonia Territorial Intelligence Platform, etc.

In all cases, the main requirements were the same:

1. to define clear aims that make sense and generate a desire to involve all the actors. These goals should be understood by all the partners without ambiguity. Clarifying words and concepts is a key task for all scientific ambition, and as such is shared by the futurists;

2. to stay firmly connected to the ground and able to come back to the present: what we will do tomorrow needs to be thought about in the present. We need our heads in the stars but our feet in the clay…

3. to fight against certainty. We often talk in terms of trying to throw light on our uncertainties, but we should also fight our great certainties about our disciplines, our fields, our methods and our perceptions of the world;

4. good leadership with proper respect for the members. In March 2018, the Women’s Economic Forum awarded my colleague Marie-Anne Delahaut the Woman of the Decade in Community Leadership Prize for her work for Millennia2025 [9]. We all know how sensitive these tasks are;

5. professionalism in management, because we need to improve our work and gain precious time for our researchers instead of wasting it;

6. relevant communication materials (logos, websites, etc.), although I tend to say, as General de Gaulle might have done, that logistics should follow ideas rather than vice versa;

7. and finally, as Professor Michel Godet often repeats, loyalty, competence and pleasure.

Pleasure in thinking together, pleasure in working hard together, pleasure in meeting together.

I feel that we have assembled these ingredients during these two days shared at Harvard and Boston Universities. Thank you to the organizers for bringing us together.


Philippe Destatte



On the same subject: What is foresight?

Direct access to Philippe Destatte’s English papers


[1] Global Foresight Project :

[2] Philippe DESTATTE, A Wallonia Policy Lab on the Foresight Trajectory, Blog PhD2050, Namur, April 11, 2018,

[3] Gaston BERGER, L’Encyclopédie française, vol. XX : Le Monde en devenir, 1959, p. 12-14, 20, 54, in Phénoménologie du temps et prospective, p. 271, Paris, PuF, 1964.

[4] Pierre CHAUNU, De l’histoire à la prospective, Paris, Robert Lafont, 1975.

[5] Une bonne lecture du présent intégrante du passé débouche, insensiblement, sur l’avenir, elle est, par nature, prospective. P. CHAUNU, op. cit. p., 283.

[6] Elle est, bien évidemment, liée à une idée de l’homme. Elle implique donc le « déroulé » de l’histoire. Ibidem, p. 285.

[7] L’Histoire n’a pas les clefs de l’avenir, elle ne peut pas tracer la voie, mais une histoire intégrée aux sciences de l’homme peut rectifier, elle peut réduire les projections enfantines, prisonnières du temps court. Ibidem.

[8] Riel MILLER, Transforming the future, Anticipation in the 21st Century, Paris-Abingdon, UNESCO-Routledge, 2018.


Liège, 22 September 2017 [1]

Foresight is firmly on the agenda in Wallonia for the educational year 2017-2018. In Liège, at the instigation of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum of Liège Creative, companies such as Engie and Citius Engineering, operators such as GRE and Liège-Métropole, the University and the Institut Destrée will gather on 2 October for an event on Foresight as a tool of transformation in a context of economic and territorial change [2]. In Charleroi, the Opened University, The University of Mons and The Destree Institute are launching a university certificate devoted to operational foresight this academic year [3]. In Namur, the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia has, since 26 August, marked its resumption of activities after Summer at the Cercle of Wallonia with a seminar dedicated to R&D and the challenges of innovation for Europe and Wallonia. Also in Namur, the foresight work of the Wallonia Territorial Intelligence Platform has fuelled the strategic thinking of the Territorial Development Unit and the Standing Conference on Territorial Development (CPDT) to contribute at the beginning of 2018 to the development of a new Territorial Development Plan. In Liège, again, the Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC will on 4 October be considering ‘Interpretations of reality and decision-making. The shape of intelligence for tomorrow, in collaboration with the Digital Café, IWEPS and The Destree Institute [4]. Not to mention the Academic Pole Liège-Luxembourg which, at the beginning of September, held a seminar at the Château de Colonster to define a vision for 2030, led by the last spin-off of the Institut Destrée, Pro Te In. Clearly, raising an issue such as research into teaching young people foresight (the Young Foresight Research initiative) is essential today and falls on fertile ground.


Useful concepts and required skills

Citizenship, complexity and foresight, which we consider in this paper, are among those ‘useful concepts’ that are described by Philippe Meirieu as illuminating our experience and enabling us to organise, understand and control it, ‘rather than whatever external factors compel me to refrain from doing so, or artificially complicate my problems. A “useful concept”,’ the educationalist writes, ‘does not replace previous knowledge, although it may shake up my thinking: it gives form to my experience, makes reality easier to grasp and enables me to act on it’[5].

Citizenship refers to the recognition of a person’s participation in a community, in the form of a legal status with associated freedoms, rights and duties, of a share in sovereignty and of political legitimacy. The notion is historically conditioned and profoundly subject to evolution, and we may therefore join Dominique Schnapper in considering how it should be revisited to ensure ‘that it effectively organises collective behaviour in societies open to the world, where the economy now plays a preeminent role’ [6]. Foresight is a process of cross-disciplinary collective intelligence, which works with long term, temporality and the analysis of complex systems to act on the present and bring about transformations [7]. Complex thinking develops a multidimensional knowledge of systems, discerns the ways in which they are incomplete and the uncertainty of their evolution, and recognises and distinguishes the interaction (and retroaction) between their elements, yet avoids considering them in isolation from each other, from their context, from their antecedents and from their likely future [8]. The analysis of complexity is without doubt a form of insurance against over-simplicity, off-the-peg intellectualism, the pressing certainties of the immediate, and the commonplaces of the digital gurus who would have us believe that any form of future intelligence of any importance can only be artificial. In a now famous lecture given at UNESCO in 2016, Edgar Morin emphasised that complex thinking has the virtue of providing a potential response to the crisis of thought. What makes it so necessary, said the author of La Méthode, is its four capacities, the fact that complex thinking is simultaneously:

– able to grasp the relationships between numerous different processes,

– able to detect antagonisms and complementarities,

– able to expect the unexpected,

– able to scrutinise the probable and the improbable.

This is why, said Morin, complex thinking has now become both urgent and vital [9]. We may add that these four qualities are also among those we recognise in foresight.

André-Yves Portnoff was obviously right to point out, almost fifteen years ago, that a revolution in intelligence, which he had already identified twenty years earlier with Thierry Gaudin, preceded and encompassed the digital turn. This revolution in intelligence was of course not just technological, just as the current transformations are clearly not just technological. In fact, the intelligence revolution primarily calls into question and challenges our human capacities, our skills, our ability to use knowledge and expertise to obtain a desired result. Such skills, he said, enable us to produce more and more value by processing the growing mass of information available. As Portnoff notes, it is skill that gives value to information [10]. Of course, it has become commonplace today to distinguish knowledge from both understanding and information. The first relates to elaborate cognitive abilities and mobilises creativity in the form of concepts, methods, theories and so on – all the rules that cannot be simply codified once and for all, or for which information cannot be obtained or stored in bulk. It is here that the human being will remain superior to artificial intelligence, for a long time to come. Understanding (savoir) takes the form of both attitude (savoir-être) and know-how (savoir-faire), and focuses on the production of applied knowledge and learning abilities. Information is merely the raw material of knowledge. We must submit it to rigorous and methodical criticism before any use is made of it [11]. Robots will be able to help us in this task, but again, our confidence in them must remain a matter of dispute for a long time to come.

Who could believe for a moment that the skills required in the 21st century are and will be the same as those needed in the societies of the past? No one doubts that these skills will be supplemented by others. Nevertheless, our analysis is that however they evolve, foresight and complex thinking will remain necessary skills for future generations. Systems have, as Donella H. Meadows has done well to remind us, the property of self-organisation, the capacity to develop themselves, to create new structures, to learn, to diversify, and to become more complex [12].

Teaching foresight

The study day organised by The Destree Institute on 22 September 2017 at the Economic and Social Council of Wallonia marks the end of the first phase of the interuniversity research project on new prospects for the development of foresight in Wallonia. It focuses on the question of the acculturation of young people to foresight and on the learning of the processes and methods of studying the future in secondary and higher education [13]. This initiative is inspired by and is forming collaborative partnerships with similar experiments developed in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and now France. Synergies have been established with the work of Peter Bishop at the University of Houston (Texas) and of Erica Bol in Europe around Teach the Future, whose highly innovative initiatives we have followed from the start. Links have also been formed with the experiments developed by Michel Lussault, former director of the French Institute of Education, who has trialled a course in prospective geography at three academies – Lyon, Lille and Aix-Marseille. The objective of The Destree Institute is to come up with a robust methodological framework as well as a series of credible proposals for implementation in Wallonia and Brussels. The research builds on our previous experiments with young people in connection with Wallonia 2020 in which, together with my futurist colleague Pascale Van Doren, we involved a class of the Institut Félicien Rops of Namur, three classes of the Athénée of Soumagne and a class of the Institut provincial d’Enseignement technique of Nivelles from 2002 and 2003 onwards. On the initiative of Engelbert Petre, we continued this experiment with an arts centre, the Maison culturelle d’Ath, and a dialogue – not a very fruitful one, it must be admitted – with the Minister of Education at that time, Ms Marie Arena. We also knew about the projects and findings of Young Foresight in the UK and Jugend denkt Zukunft [14] in Germany, which our colleagues Gordon Ollivere (RTC North, Sunderland) and Henning Banthien (IFOK Berlin) had sent us at that time. We have of course stayed in touch with them. The current research, Wallonia Young Foresight, also builds on the work carried out over the last year by an interdisciplinary team of researchers consisting of Chloë Vidal, a geography PhD and philosopher, Fabien Moustard, a graduate in earth sciences and political scientist, and Michaël Van Cutsem, a political scientist and urban planner. They have formed international contacts, notably on the basis of several relationships identified within European programmes previously carried out by The Destree Institute, in particular ForLearn and the Mutual Learning Platform. All these efforts have been supported by the Minister for Research and Higher Education, Jean-Claude Marcourt. The very concrete objective of this initiative is therefore to draw up a review of experiments at the international level, to identify European actors and to found a network of these actors who recognise the growing importance that foresight activities can play in the work of science (teaching or research) and the shaping of public policy. The common denominator of the various projects identified will be that they draw attention to foresight as a form of civic education that promotes the learning of science (territorial, political and social sciences). This twofold challenge – both educational (enabling young people to become the drivers of their own learning and authors of their own knowledge) and developmental (guiding young people to become citizens) – calls for a multidisciplinary and multi-factorial approach that assigns an important role to the humanities and the arts; input is thus also provided by initiatives such as the biennial event Nos Futurs, launched by Théâtre Nouvelle Génération in Lyon in autumn 2016, or the exhibition A Temporary Futures Institute, organised at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp in summer 2017.

To help it carry out this task successfully, the Institut Destrée has the support of three universities of Wallonia and of the intellectual forum of the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia, which is open to actors from business, research, the public sector and civil society. Three university representatives have agreed to get involved in supporting this research and contributing to its interuniversity character:

– Christian de Visscher, Professor of Political Science and Public Management, President of the Institute of Political Sciences of Louvain-Europe, Co-Director of the Montesquieu Centre for Public Policy Studies, Catholic University of Louvain;

– Didier Vrancken, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Centre for Sociological Research and Action, President of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Liège;

– Giuseppe Pagano, Professor of Economics, Vice-Rector for Institutional and Regional Development at the University of Mons, Director of the Public Finance and Tax Service and General Coordinator of the University of Mons for the Charleroi site.

Three functions of thinking

The same design has been used for the study day of 22 September 2017 as that recommended in our foresight exercises; in other words, it uses the triple functionality that is at the heart of Thierry Gaudin’s Discours de la méthode créatrice, itself inspired by the works of Georges Dumézil. Thinking, according to this interpretation, is based on a triple recognition which constitutes the principle and process by which the mind returns to the vicinity of where it has been and recognises:

  1. recognition of things, in which we dance around the object in order to determine the facts; the mind focuses on that which exists, on gathering data, on establishing reality, on analysis;
  2. recognition of others, in which we dance with other subjects in order to deliberate; the mind focuses on interaction, on the deliberation that takes the researcher or actor further with his or her thinking and allows other points of view to be compared;
  3. self-recognition, in which, by a kind of withdrawal, we dance with ourselves, we conceptualise: this is the dance of the neurons, writes Gaudin, the waking dreams in which illumination arises among the members of a nucleus, and key concepts emerge.

This tri-functional approach is a powerful cognitive tool [15].

Thus, all our actions are structured firstly on exposition, analysis and criticism of the facts, then on deliberation, and finally on the work of conceptualisation.

We also wish to recall the ultimate goals of all our efforts. We defined these throughout our Wallonia in the future process culminating in the charter of The Destree Institute; they were last revised in 2013 and are formulated as a twofold objective: an exemplary democracy – today we might use the term ‘open’ – and better development, which we specified as being ‘sustainable’. As we conceive it, following Gro Harlem Brundtland, such development is systemic, links together all spheres of society, represents a long-term approach and leads to concrete action. Understood in this way, there could be no better way to embrace such development than through foresight.

Philippe Destatte



[1] This paper is a revised version of the opening contribution to the study day Wallonia Young Foresight Research, Learning in the 21st c.: citizenship, complexity and foresight, organised by The Destree Institute and the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia with the support of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels and held at the Economic and Social Council of Wallonia in Liège on 22 September 2017.




[5] Philippe MEIRIEU, Apprendre, oui, mais comment…, p. 27, Paris, ESF, 24th ed., 2016.

[6] Dominique SCHNAPPER, Citoyenneté, in Encyclopaedia Universalis, vol. 5, p. 915-917, Paris, EU, 2002. – D. SCHNAPPER, L’esprit démocratique des lois, p. 46ff., Paris, Gallimard, 2014. – Thierry BALZACQ et al., Fondements de science politique, p. 103, Louvain-la-Neuve, De Boeck, 2014.

[7] Philippe DESTATTE, What is foresight?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

[8] Edgar MORIN, Introduction à la pensée complexe, p. 11-12, Paris, Seuil, 2005.

[9] E. MORIN, Congrès mondial pour la pensée complexe, Paris, UNESCO, 9 December 2016.

[10] Pierre-Yves PORTNOFF, Le pari de l’intelligence, Des puces, des souris et des hommes, p. 7, Paris, Futuribles, 2004.

[11] Pierre MUSSO, « Révolution numérique » et « société de la connaissance » in Ena hors des murs, p. 48, 1 April 2014.

[12] Donella H. MEADOWS, Thinking in systems, A primer, p. 81, London, Earthscan, 2009.

[14] Jugend denkt Zukunft

[15] Thierry GAUDIN, Discours de la méthode créatrice, Entretiens avec François L’Yvonnet, p. 77-79, Gordes, Ose savoir – Le Relié, 2003.

Namur, April 11, 2018

There are some words that we try in vain to translate but do not manage to clarify satisfactorily. This is the case with the English words policy and policies. We can, of course, get close to the meaning when, in French, we allude to une politique [1] or les politiques publiques. Except that policy does not necessarily relate to a political context [2] and does not always belong to the register of the public arena. The Oxford English Dictionary defines policy as a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual [3]. Policies can therefore be organisational, corporate, individual or collective, and can assume multiple forms, from intention to action, including streams of ideas and their execution in legislation, regulatory implementation and everyday changes [4]. For a long time, the Anglo-Saxon academic world has adopted the distinction between politics and policies, indicating moreover that policies may be public. Thus the London School of Economics and Political Science distinguishes between British Politics and Policy and UK Government, Politics and Policy [5].


1. Intentions, decisions, objectives and implementation

Drawing its inspiration from the works of theorists in the concept, especially the Yale University professors Harold Dwight Lasswell (1902-1978) [6] and Aaron Wildavsky (1930-1993) [7], the Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration (ed. 2015) defines Policy as a decision or, more broadly, a series of interlinked decisions relating to a range of objectives and the means of implementing them. The author of the definition, William H. Park, a lecturer and researcher at a British military academy [8], states that this process involves identifying a problem that requires a solution or an objective that is worth achieving, evaluating the alternative means of attaining the desired results, choosing between these alternatives and implementing the preferred option, in addition to solving the problem or achieving the objective. Park observes that such a process should entail the participation of a limited number of decision-makers, a high degree of consensus on what constitutes a policy problem or a desirable objective, a capacity for evaluating and comparing the probable consequences of each of the alternatives, a smooth implementation of the chosen option and the absence of any impediments to achieving the objectives. This also implies that this process ends with the execution and implementation of the decision [9]. Clearly, however difficult it may be to grasp the notion, it is above all the rationality of the process that seems to characterise it [10]. There is also the fact that, as Lasswell points out, policy approaches tend toward contextuality in place of fragmentation and toward problem-oriented not problem-blind perspectives [11]. This second consideration points to the systemic aspect, which we prioritise in foresight – even if it is beyond the context. Furthermore, according to the Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, policy studies and foresight share the characteristic of being explicitly normative and fundamentally action-oriented [12]. They are also normative because they rely on values that determine their objectives. In what Yehezkel Dror calls Grand Policies, the common good, the public interest and the good of humanity as a whole, or raison d’humanité, are pursued to highlight strategies. As the former professor of political science and politics at Harvard and the University of Jerusalem points out, Grand Policies try to reduce the probability of bad futures, to increase the probability of good futures, as their images and evaluations change with time, and to gear up to coping with the unforeseen and the unforeseeable[13]. Unsurprisingly, to achieve this, Dror particularly recommends engaging in thinking-in-History and practising foresight [14].

2. In governance: identifying and organising the actors

Democratic governance, in other words governance by the actors, – including the Administration [15] –, particularly as highlighted since the early 1990s by the Club of Rome and the United Nations Development Programme[16], also shows, as sociologist Patrice Duran has pointed out, that government institutions have lost their monopoly on governance [17]. This observation was also made by David Richards and Martin J. Smith in their analysis of the links between governance and public policy in the United Kingdom. For these two British political scientists, governance demands that we consider all the actors and locations beyond the « core executive » involved in the policy making process [18]. If we take proper account of this trend, we can make a distinction, as Duran does, between the two complementary rationales on which public action as a process is founded:

– an identification rationale, which makes it possible to determine the relevant actors, define the scope of their involvement and specify their degree of legitimacy; the challenge relates to the status of the actors in the sense that this determines their authority and thereby their legitimacy to act.

– a rationale for organising these actors for the purpose of producing effective action. The actors are also evaluated on what they do, in other words on their contribution to dealing with the problems identified as public problems which are therefore the responsibility of the public authorities. It is their power to act, in the sense of their capacity to act, that is at stake here rather than their authority [19]. This way of understanding governance and of giving the government an instrumental role in collective action has been at the heart of our approach for twenty years [20]. It clearly implies societal objectives that support a vision, shared by the actors, of a desirable future for all. We have often summarised these objectives as being the shared requirement for greater democracy and better development [21]. But, as Philippe Moreau Defarges rightly pointed out, the public interest no longer comes from the top down, but develops, flows and belongs to whoever exploits it [22]. Moreover, it is from this perspective that the rationale of empowerment is not only reserved for elected officials with responsibility for the issues under their mandate but extends to other stakeholders in distributed, shared, democratic governance [23], especially the Administration, businesses and civil society [24].

3. Supporting a Policy Lab for the Independent Regional Foresight Unit

Following the meeting with Minister-President Willy Borsus on 15 September 2017 and with the board of directors of the The Destree Institute on 5 December 2017, the Destree Institute revived its Foresight Unit under the name CiPré (Cellule indépendante de Prospective régionale – Independent Regional Foresight Unit) and backed the creation of a laboratory for collective, public and entrepreneurial policies for Wallonia in Europe: the Wallonia Policy Lab. This has been modelled on the EU Policy Lab, set up by the European Joint Research Centre and presented by Fabiana Scapolo, deputy head of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, during the conference entitled Learning in the 21st century: citizenship, foresight and complexity, organised in the Economic and Social Council of Wallonia by The Destree Institute on 22 September 2017 as part of the Wallonia Young Foresight Research programme.

According to its own introduction, the European Policy Lab represents a collaborative and experimental space for developing innovative public or collective policies. Both a physical space and a way of working which combines foresight, behavioural insights [25], and the process of co-creation and innovation, in other words design thinking [26], the European Lab has set itself three tasks: firstly, to explore complexity and the long term in order to measure uncertainty; secondly, to bring together political objectives and collective actions and to improve decision-making and the reality of implementing decisions; and finally, to find solutions for developing better public or collective policies and to ensure that the strategies will apply in the real world [27]. We have embraced these tasks in Wallonia, in addition to our collaborations with the European Joint Research Centre, particularly on the project entitled The Future of Government 2030+, A Citizen Centric Perspective on New Government Models.

The proposal to create a Policy Lab seemed so important to the board of directors of The Destree Institute that it decided to accentuate its own name with this designation: The Destree Institute, Wallonia Policy Lab. This decision conveys three messages: the first is the operationalisation of foresight, which characterises the type of foresight that brings about change, as advocated by The Destree Institute. The University Certificate which it has jointly run with UMONS and the Open University in Charleroi since February 2017 is also called Operational Foresight [28]. The second message is the need for accelerated experimentation on a new, more involving democracy, based on governance by actors and innovative tools such as those developed globally in recent years around the concept of open government [29]. The third message concerns the uninhibited use of English and therefore the desire for internationalisation, even if the language chosen could have been that of one of our dynamic neighbours, Germany or the Netherlands, or of another country. Unrestrained access and openness to the world are absolute necessities for a region undergoing restructuring which, today, must more than ever position itself away from the faint-heartedness of yesterday.

In parallel, having run its course at the end of December 2017, the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society, founded in 1999 on the initiative of The Destree Institute and several actors who were convinced of the need for these governance tools and advocated their use, decided to encourage this new initiative by sponsoring the Wallonia Policy Lab in terms of its intellectual and material heritage. This also means that, as it did at the end of the 1990s, The Destree Institute will once again, through this laboratory, pay close attention to the assessment and performance of public and collective policies which, naturally, represent one of the key axes of the policy process.

Conclusion: bringing order to future disorder

When we talk of Policy, we are referring to a course of action or a structured programme of actions guided by a vision of the future (principles, broad objectives, goals), which address some clearly identified challenges [30]. The process of governance, which has been in place since the early 2000s, has increased the need for a better grasp of policies by involving the stakeholders. Interdependence between the actors is an integral part of modern political action, changing it from public action into collective action.

It has been argued and repeatedly stated that, in the territories, and particularly in the regions, the doors to the future open downwards. Patrice Duran, referring to Michael Lipsky, the political scientist at Princeton [31], observed that changes usually resulted from the daily actions taken on the ground by public officials or peripheral actors rather than from the broad objectives set by the major decision centres. We, too, agree with the French professor that there is no point in developing ambitious objectives if they cannot usefully be translated into action content. In other words, it is not so much developing major programmes that counts but rather determining the process by which a decision may or may not emerge and take shape [32]. It’s certainly not going to happen overnight. Particular attention must be paid to the serious implementation of the objectives we set ourselves. Developing policies means – and this something we have forgotten rather too often in Wallonia in recent decades – carefully linking the key strategic directions to the concrete reality of the fieldwork and mobilising the diversity of actors operating on the ground [33]. That is how, using all our pragmatism, we can bring order to disorder, to use Philippe Zittoun’s well-turned phrase [34].

Moreover, two early initiatives have been taken in this regard. The first, as part of a joint initiative taken in November 2017, was to transform a hands-on training activity, Local powers and Social action, organised with the Wallonia Public Service DG05, into a genuine laboratory for those public officials to create their business practices of the future. The second initiative, at the beginning of February 2018, was to put together the « Investing in young people” citizens’ panel, which is being organised on the initiative of the Parliament of Wallonia by a Policy Lab that brings young people together to identify long-term challenges. In both cases, the participants needed to be quick, intellectually mobile, efficient, proactive, bright and operational. And that was the case. More on this in due course…

The Wallonia Policy Lab is very much in line with this moment in our history: a time when we are moving from grand ideological principles to experimentation – on the ground – with new, collective, concrete actions with a view to implementing them. This way of working will finally allow us to overcome our endemic shortcomings, our structural blockages and our mental and cultural inertia so that we can truly address the challenges we face. A time when, ultimately, we must stand together.


Philippe Destatte


[1] See, for example, the definition of Policy/Politique in the MEANS programme: ensemble d’activités différentes (programmes, procédures, lois, règlements) qui sont dirigées vers un même but, un même objectif général. Evaluer les programmes socio-économiques, Glossaire de 300 concepts et termes techniques, coll. MEANS, vol. 6., p. 33, European Commission, Community Structural Funds, 1999. – My thanks to my colleagues Pascale Van Doren and Michaël Van Cutsem for helping me develop and refine this document.

[2] Philippe ZITTOUN, La fabrique politique des politiques publiques, Une approche pragmatique de l’action publique, p. 10sv, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2013. – Thierry BALZACQ e.a., Fondements de Science politique, p. 33, Louvain-la-Neuve, De Boeck, 2015. – See the broad discussion of the concept of policy in Michaël HILL & Frederic VARONE, The Public Policy Process, p. 16-23, New York & London, Routledge, 7th ed., 2017.

[3] A course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual. Oxford English Dictionary on line. (2 April 2018).

[4] Edward C. PAGE, The Origins of Policy, in Michael MORAN, Martin REIN & Robert E. GOODIN, Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, p. 210sv, Oxford University Press, 2006. – Brian W. HOGWOOD & Lewis A. GUNN, Policy Analysis for the Real World, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1984.

[5] See the blog of the London School of Economics and Political Science:

[6] Harold Dwight LASSWELL, A Pre-View of Policy Sciences, New York, American Elsevier, 1971.

[7] Aaron WILDAVSKY, Speaking Truth to Power, The Art and Craft of Policy Analysis, Boston, Little Brown, 1979.

[8] Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC), now teaching at King’s College in London.

[9] William H. PARK, Policy, 4, in Jay M. SHAFRITZ Jr. ed., Defining Public Administration, Selections from the International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration, New York, Routledge, 2018.

[10] M. HILL & F. VARONE, The Public Policy Process…, p. 20. – Patrice DURAN, Penser l’action publique, p. 35, Paris, Lextenso, 2010.

[11] H. D. LASSWELL, A Pre-View of Policy Sciences…, p. 8.

[12] Oxford Handbook of Public Policy…, p. 6.

[13] Yehezkel DROR, Training for Policy Makers, in Handbook…, p. 82-86.

[14] Ibidem, p. 86sv.

[15] Edward C. PAGE, Policy without Politicians, Bureaucratic Influence in Comparative Perspective, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

[16] Philippe DESTATTE, L’élaboration d’un nouveau contrat social, in Philippe DESTATTE dir., Mission prospective Wallonie 21, La Wallonie à l’écoute de la prospective, Premier Rapport au Ministre-Président du Gouvernement wallon, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2003. 21 – Steven A. ROSELL e.a., Governing in an Information Society, p. 21, Montréal, Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1992.

[17] Patrice DURAN, Penser l’action publique, p. 77, Paris, Lextenso, 2010.

[18] Thus, it demands that we consider all the actors and locations beyond the « core executive » involved in the policy making process. David RICHARDS & Martin J. SMITH, Governance and Public Policy in the UK, p. 2, Oxford University Press, 2002.

[19] P. DURAN, Penser l’action publique…, p. 76-77. Our translation.

[20] Ph. DESTATTE, Bonne gouvernance: contractualisation, évaluation et prospective, Trois atouts pour une excellence régionale, in Ph. DESTATTE dir., Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 7sv, Charleroi, Institut-Destrée, 2001.

[21] Ph. DESTATTE, Plus de démocratie et un meilleur développement, Rapport général du quatrième Congrès La Wallonie au futur, dans La Wallonie au futur, Sortir du XXème siècle: évaluation, innovation, prospective, p. 436, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 1999.

[22] Philippe MOREAU DEFARGES, La gouvernance, p. 33, Paris, PuF, 2003.

[23] Gilles PAQUET, Gouvernance: mode d’emploi, Montréal, Liber, 2008.

[24] Policy analysts use the imperfect tools of their trade not only to assist legitimately elected officials in implementing their democratic mandates, but also to empower some groups rather than others. Oxford Handbook of Public Policy…, p. 28.

[25] Behavioural Insights is an inductive approach to policy making that combines insights from psychology, cognitive science, and social science with empirically-tested results to discover how humans actually make choices. Since 2013, OECD has been at the forefront of supporting public institutions who are applying behavioural insights to improving public policy.

[26] See, for example, Paola COLETTI, Evidence for Public Policy Design, How to Learn from Best Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, New York – Houndmills Basingstoke UK, 2013.

[27] EU Policy Lab, a collaborative and experimental space for innovative policy-making, Brussels; European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2017.


[29] Ph. DESTATTE, What is Open Government? Blog PhD2050, Reims, 7 November 2017,

[30] Concerning identification of the challenges: Charles E. LINDBLOM, Policy-making Process, p. 12-14, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1968.

[31] Michael LIPSKY, Street Level Bureaucracy, New York, Russel Sage, 1980.

[32] Patrice DURAN, Penser l’action publique, p. 48, Paris, Lextenso, 2010. Our translation.

[33] Jeffrey L. PRESSMAN & Aaron WILDAWSKY, Implementation, Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1973. – Susan BARRETT & Colin FUDGE eds, Policy and Action, Essays on the Implementation of Public Policy, London, Methuen, 1981.

[34] Ph. ZITTOUN, op.cit., p. 326. Our translation.

Liège, January 19, 2018

1. What is foresight, and in what way is it strategic? [1]

 In the form in which we know it today in Europe, foresight represents an encounter and interaction between French and Latin developments, on the one hand, and those in the Anglosphere on the other. In English-speaking countries, the practice of foresight has evolved over time from a concern with military interests (such as improving defence systems) to industrial objectives (such as increasing competitiveness) and societal issues (such as ensuring the welfare of the population or ensuring social harmony). Since the 1960s, its chosen field has shifted from fundamental science to key technologies, then to the analysis of innovation systems, and finally to the study of the entire societal system. Having started out within a single discipline, namely the exact sciences, foresight has become pluridisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, with an openness to the social sciences [2]. In doing so, it has moved considerably closer to the French approach, abandoning many of its earlier forecasting ambitions for a more strategic focus.

The French school of foresight (referred to as la prospective) originates in the thought of the philosopher and entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Deriving from a philosophy of collective action and engagement, it deals with value systems and constructs knowledge for political purposes [3], and has likewise become increasingly strategic in nature through contact with the worlds of international organisations, companies and regional territories [4]. Taking account of the long-term and la longue durée by postulating the plurality of possible futures, adopting the analysis of complex systems and deploying the theory and practice of modelling, foresight generates a strategic desire and willingness in order to influence and affect history. As I have helped to define it in various contexts – European (the Mutual Learning Platform of DG Research, DG Enterprise & Industry, and DG Regional & Urban Policy, supported by the Committee of the Regions) [5], French (the European Regional Foresight College) created under the auspices of the Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness (DATAR) in Paris) [6] or in Wallonia (the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society) [7] – foresight is an independent, dialectical and rigorous process, conducted in a transdisciplinary way and taking in the longer sweep of history. It can shed light on questions of the present and the future, firstly by considering them in a holistic, systemic and complex framework, and secondly by setting them in a temporal context over and beyond historicity. Concerned above all with planning and action, its purpose is to provoke one or more transformations within the system that it apprehends by mobilising collective intelligence [8]. This definition is that of both la prospective and foresight; at any rate it was designed as such, as part of a serious effort to bring about convergence between these two tools undertaken by, in particular, the team of Unit K2 of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, led at the time by Paraskevas Caracostas.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the strategy behind the process of la prospective or foresight – some refer to la prospective stratégique or strategic foresight, which to my mind are pleonasms – is that it does not have a linear relationship with the diagnosis or the issues. Fundamentally, this tool reflects both the long-term issues it seeks to address and a vision of a desirable future that it has constructed with the actors concerned. Its circular process mobilises collective and collaborative intelligence at every step in order to bring about in reality a desired and jointly constructed action that operates over the long term and is intended to be efficient and operational. Foresight watch takes place at every step of this process. I define this as a continuous and largely iterative activity of active observation and systemic analysis of the environment, in the short, medium and long term, to anticipate developments and identify present and future issues with the ultimate purpose of forming collective visions and action strategies. It is based on creating and managing the knowledge needed as input into the process of foresight itself. This process extends from the choice of areas to work on (long-term issues) and of the necessary heuristic, via the analysis and capitalisation of information and its transformation into useful knowledge, to communication and evaluation [9].

2. Foresight and strategic intelligence

The Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC Liège, under the direction of Professor Claire Gruslin, sees strategic intelligence as ‘a mode of governance based on the acquisition and protection of strategic and relevant information and on the potential for influence, which is essential for all economic actors wishing to participate proactively in development and innovation by building a distinctive and lasting advantage in a highly competitive and turbulent environment[10].

For its part, the famous Martre Report of 1994, in its definition of economic intelligence, delineated a process fairly similar to that which I mentioned for foresight, likewise including monitoring, heuristics, the examination of issues, a shared vision and the strategy to achieve it, all set in a ‘continuous cycle’:

Economic intelligence can be defined as the set of coordinated actions by which information that is useful to economic actors is sought out, processed and distributed for exploitation. These various actions are carried out legally and benefit from the protection necessary to preserve the company’s assets, under optimal quality, time and cost conditions. Useful information is that needed by the different decision-making levels in the company or the community in order to develop and implement in a coherent manner the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve its objectives, with the goal of improving its position in its competitive context. These actions within the company are organised in a continuous cycle, generating a shared vision of the objectives to be achieved[11].

What is of particular interest in the search for parallels or convergences between economic intelligence and foresight is the idea, developed by Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, that the notion of economic intelligence goes beyond documentation, monitoring, data protection or even influence, to become part of ‘a true strategic and tactical intention’, supporting actions at different levels, from the company up to the global, international level[12].

 3. Foresight in strategic intelligence

At the turn of the millennium, as part of the European ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory) programme, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville gathered a series of researchers to examine the idea of ​​strategic intelligence as a methodological vehicle or umbrella for public policy-making. The idea was to recognise and take account of the diversity of methods made available to decision-makers in order to structure and mobilise them to ensure successful policy-making [13]. As Ken Ducatel, one of the coordinators of this discussion, put it, ‘The concept of strategic intelligence not only offers a powerful methodology for addressing (EU) issues, but has the flexibility to connect to other forms of interaction, adapt to new models of governance and open up to technological changes and social developments that are faster than we have ever known before[14].

At the time of the REGSTRAT project coordinated by the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Europa Zentrum in 2006, the concept of Strategic Policy Intelligence (SPI) tools – i.e. intelligence tools applied to public policy – had become accepted, in particular among the representatives of the Mutual Learning Platform referred to earlier. As my fellow foresight specialist Günter Clar and I pointed out in the report on the subject of foresight, strategic intelligence as applied to public policy can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. As had become clear during the work, SPI’s tools include foresight, evaluation of technological choices, evaluation, benchmarking, quality procedures applied to territories, and so on. These tools are used to provide decision-makers and stakeholders with clear, objective, politically unbiased, independent and, most importantly, anticipatory information [15].

This work also made it possible to define strategic intelligence as observed in this context. Its content is adapted to the context, with hard and soft sides and a distributed character, underpinned by scale effects, the facilitation of learning, a balance between specific and generic approaches and increased accessibility. Its process is based on demand, the need to mobilise creativity, making tacit knowledge explicit, the evaluation of technological potential, a facilitation of the process and an optimal link with decision-making [16].

From this viewpoint, foresight is clearly one of the tools of strategic intelligence for the use of policy-makers and stakeholders.

 Anticipation, innovation and decision-making

The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission has been involved for some years in forward-looking activities (FLAs) [17], just as the European Institute in Seville had been – as we saw – when it developed strategic policy intelligence (SPI) [18] tools for use in public policy-making[19]. FLAs include all systematic and participatory studies and processes designed to consider possible futures, proactively and strategically, and to explore and map out paths towards desirable goals [20]. This field obviously includes numerous different methods for anticipation of future developments, evaluation of technological choices, ex-ante evaluation, and so on.

In 2001, Ruud Smits, Professor of Technology and Innovation at the University of Utrecht, made three recommendations that he regarded as essential. First, he stressed, it was time to call a halt to the debate about definitions and to exploit the synergies between the different branches of strategic intelligence. Next, he noted the need to improve the quality of strategic intelligence and reinforce its existing sources. Finally, Smits called for the development of an interface between strategic intelligence sources and their users[21]. This programme has yet to be implemented, and our work at GRIS could be seen as reflecting this ambition.

This cognitive approach without a doubt brings us back to the distinction put forward by psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who refers in his book Thinking fast and slow to two cerebral systems. He describes System 1 as automatic, direct, impulsive, everyday, fast, intuitive, and involving no real effort; we use it in 95% of circumstances. System 2, by contrast, is conscious, rational, deliberative, slow, analytical and logical; we only use it 5% of the time, especially to make decisions when we find ourselves in systems that we consider complex[22]. It is at such times that we have to make the effort to mobilise tools suited to the tasks we are tackling.

This question concerns all strategic intelligence tools, including foresight. Not just because the investments to be made in these fields of research are considerable, but because, often, many of us are unaware of the extent of that which we are unable to understand. All too commonly, we think that what we can see represents the full extent of what exists. We confine ourselves to the variables that we are able to detect, embrace and measure, and have a considerable capacity to refuse to recognise other variables. We know that this syndrome of WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’) is devastating: it prevents us from grasping reality in its entirety by making us think that we are in full command of the territory around us and the horizon. As Kahneman puts it, ‘You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as if it were all there is to know[23].

This flaw – and there are others – should encourage us to join forces to cross methodological and epistemological boundaries and work to create more robust instruments that can be used to design more proactive and better-equipped public policies.


Philippe Destatte



[1] A first version of this paper was presented at the Liège Business School on September 28, 2016.

[2] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997.

[3] ‘(…) By applying the principles of intentional analysis associated with phenomenology to the experience of time, Gaston Berger substitutes for the “myth of time” a temporal norm, an intersubjective construct for collective action. His philosophy of knowledge is thus constituted as a science of foresight practice whose purpose is normative: it is oriented towards work on values and the construction of a political project; it is a “philosophy in action”.‘ Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015. Our translation.

[4] On la prospective territoriale, representing an encounter between the principles of foresight and those of regional development, see the reference to the DATAR international conference in March 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014)…, p. 214-215.

[5] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.ünter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[6] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE eds, Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[7] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[8] Ph. Destatte, What is foresight ?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

[9] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[10] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Brussels, August 2016, 64 p.

[11] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission) – La Documentation française, February 1994.

[12] ‘The notion of economic intelligence implies transcending the piecemeal actions designated by the terms documentation, monitoring (scientific and technological, competitive, financial, legal and regulatory etc.), protection of competitive capital, and influencing (strategy for influencing nation-states, role of foreign consultancies, information and misinformation operations, etc). It succeeds in transcending these things as a result of the strategic and tactical intention which is supposed to preside over the steering of piecemeal actions and over ensuring their success, and of the interaction between all levels of activity at which the economic intelligence function is exercised: from the grassroots (within companies), through intermediate levels (interprofessional, local), up to the national (concerted strategies between different decision-making centres), transnational (multinational groups) or international (strategies for influencing nation-states) levels.’ H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13. Our translation.

[13] Strategic intelligence can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. (…) Strategic intelligence applied to public policy offers a variety of methodologies to meet the requirements of policy-makers. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission), 1994. Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[14] Ibidem, p. IV.

[15] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[16] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[17] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011.

[18] ‘Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing them together to interact (amongst others to create common ground).’ Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Seville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[19] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[20] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[21] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – see also R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strengthening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds, The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[22] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[23] D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201.

Reims, 7 November 2017


An innovative, global movement

In 2008, in his Change we can believe in project, Barack Obama highlighted the need to establish greater transparency in political institutions so that all citizens have access to information they need to evaluate the performance of the leaders. The candidate wrote that finally the governance of the country must be a source of inspiration for all Americans and must encourage them to act as citizens [1]. In addition to his desire to reduce unnecessary public expenditure, cut bureaucracy and cancel ineffective programmes, the future President of the United States announced that he wanted to open up democracy. The new Obama administration, he announced, will publish on line all information on the management of the State and will employ all available technologies to raise public awareness of State expenditure. It will invite members of the public to serve and take part, and it will reduce bureaucracy to ensure that all government agencies operate with maximum efficiency [2]. In addition to these priorities he announced compliance with the obligations on natural resources and on social inclusion and cohesion. The stated objective was to restore confidence in the institutions and to clean up Washington: imposing a strict ethical code on the elected representatives and limiting the influence of the lobbies and interest groups [3].

When President Obama entered the White House, one of his first initiatives, on 21 January 2009, was to send a memorandum on transparency and Open Government to the officials at the government ministries and agencies. In this document, the new president reaffirmed his pledge to create a government of this type and asked his departments to help create a political system founded on transparency, public participation and collaboration. This openness, he wrote, would strengthen democracy and promote the effectiveness and efficiency of the government. Firstly, the president wanted the government to be transparent and to promote accountability [4] and tell the public what it was doing. Next, the government should be participatory: when knowledge is shared between the public and private spheres, it is in the common interest for the public to participate in developing policies and allow their government to benefit from their collective intelligence. Finally, the government should be collaborative, which means that it should actively engage Americans in the work of their government, harnessing innovative tools and methods to ensure that all levels of the government and the administration cooperate with each other and with the non-profit organisations, businesses and individuals in the private sector [5]. After being gradually implemented in the United States, this movement, which follows an already long-standing Anglo-Saxon tradition [6], has inspired other countries and prompted an important multilateral initiative which, incidentally, The Destree Institute joined as a civil society partner in 2017.

Thus, in 2011, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched by the governments of the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom, who adopted a joint declaration [7]. The objective of the OGP is to set up a platform for good practices between innovators in order to secure concrete commitments from governments on transparency, public action, empowerment of citizens, public participation, democratic innovation and harnessing new technologies to promote better governance.

As the years have passed, more than 70 countries have joined the initiative. As of 2017, the Belgian Federal State has not yet done so [8]. France, which was a pioneer in deliberative processes and Open Data, only joined the OGP in 2014 but has held the joint presidency since 2015, becoming co-organiser of the 4th Global Summit for the Open Government Partnership, which was held in the French capital at the end of 2016. The Paris Declaration, which was adopted on 7 December 2016, reaffirms all the founding principles and values of the OGP and undertakes to push forward the frontiers of the reforms beyond transparency, to advance meaningful participation, accountability and responsiveness. The signatories to the Paris Declaration also pledge to create innovative alliances between civil society and government leading to more collaborative public services and decision-making processes. The document also calls for the development of Open Government at the local level and the launch of local participatory initiatives to bring public policies closer to citizens [9].

A citizen-centred culture of governance

To answer the question of what open government really is, we could examine the closed model of decision-making with Beth Simone Noveck, who ran the Open Government Initiative at the White House in 2009 and 2010. This legal expert and law professor, who is a Yale and Harvard graduate, considers that the closed model is the one that was created by Max Weber, Walter Lippmann and James Madison. This model would have us believe that only government professionals and their experts, who themselves claim to be strictly objective [10], possess the necessary impartiality, expertise, resources, discipline and time to make the right public decisions. This vision, which ought to be a thing of the past, restricts public participation to representative democracy, voting, joining interest groups and involvement in local civic or political activities. Yet, today, we know that, for many reasons, professional politicians do not have a monopoly on information or expertise [11].

Technological innovation and what is today called Digital Social Innovation (DSI) [12] are contributing to this change. However, we do not think they are the driving force behind the Open Government concepts as they are somewhat peripheral. Although technology does have some significance in this process, it is perhaps in relation to its toolkit rather than its challenges or purposes. Open Government forms part of a two-fold tradition. Firstly, that of transparency and free access to public information on civil society. This is not new. The British parliament endorsed it in the 1990s [13]. Secondly, Open Government finds its inspiration in the values of sharing and collaboration used within the communities linked to the free software and open science movements [14]. In this sense, public expectations could be raised, as is the case with some researchers who see in Open Government the extent to which citizens can monitor and influence government processes through access to government information and access to decision-making arenas [15].

Even if we consider that the idea of Open Government is still under construction [16], we can still try to establish a definition. Taking our inspiration from the OECD definition in English, Open Government can be conceived as a citizen-centred culture of governance that utilizes innovative and sustainable tools, policies and practices to promote government transparency, responsiveness and accountability to foster stakeholders’ participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth  [17]. The aim of this process is that it should lead to the co-construction of collective policies that involve all the parties involved in governance (public sphere, businesses, civil society, etc.) and pursue the general interest and the common good.

The international OGP organisation states that an Open Government strategy can only really develop where it is supported by an appropriate environment that allows it to be rolled out. The issue of the leadership of the political players is clearly very important, as is the capacity (empowerment) of the citizens to participate effectively in public action: this is central to the reforms it brings about, as the international organisation noted. Today, governments acknowledge the need to move from the role of simple providers of services towards the development of closer partnerships with all relevant stakeholders.[18].

Thus Open Government reconnects with one of the initial definitions of governance, as expressed by Steven Rosell in 1992: a process whereby an organisation or a society steers itself, using its players [19]. It has become commonplace to reiterate that the challenges we face today can no longer be resolved, given their magnitude, by a traditional government and several cohorts or even legions of civil servants.

Nevertheless, faced with these often enormous challenges, Professor of Business Administration Douglas Schuler rightly reflects on the capacity for action of the entire society that would have to be mobilised and poses the question: will we be smart enough soon enough? To answer this question, Schuler, who is also president of the Public Sphere Project, calls for what he refers to as civic intelligence, a form of collective intelligence centred on shared challenges, which focuses on improving society as a whole rather than just the individual. The type of democracy that is based on civic intelligence, writes Douglas Schuler, is one which, as the American psychologist and philosopher John Dewey wrote, can be seen as a way of life rather than as a duty, one in which participation in a participatory process strengthens the citizenship of individuals and allows them to think more in terms of community. To that end, deliberation is absolutely essential. It can be defined as a process of directed communication whereby people discuss their concerns in a reasonable, conscientious, and open manner, with the intent of arriving at a decision [20]. Deliberation occurs when people with dissimilar points of view exchange ideas with the intent of coming to an agreement. As futurists are well aware, the intended product of deliberation is a more coherent vision of the future [21].

Contrary to what is generally believed, true deliberation processes are rare, both in the civic sphere and in specifically political and institutional contexts. Moreover, Beth Simone Noveck describes deliberative democracy as timid, preferring the term collaborative democracy, which focuses more on results and decisions and is best promoted through technologies [22]. These processes do, however, constitute the basic methodology for more participative dynamics, such as the co-construction of public policies or collective policies, leading to contractualisation of players, additionality of financing and partnership implementation and evaluation. The distance between these simple, more or less formal consultation processes or these socio-economic discussion processes can be measured using Rhineland or Meuse models, which date back to the period just after the Second World War period and which, admittedly, are no longer adequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The United Nations was right when it added a Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”, to the already explicit Goal 16, which is one of the sustainable development goals focussing specifically on the emergence of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. This Goal 17 calls for effective partnerships to be set up between governments, the private sector and civil society: these inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level [23].

Open regions and territories

In his speech at the Open Government Partnership Forum, which was held in parallel with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2017, President Emmanuel Macron stated that local authorities have an increasing role to play and are an absolutely essential part of Open Government [24]. In his election campaign, the future French president also highlighted the fact that public policies are more effective when they are constructed with the constituents for whom they are intended. And in what he called the République contractuelle [Contractual Republic], a Republic which places trust in local districts, key players and society, the former minister saw a new idea for democracy: « these are not passive citizens who delegate the governance of the nation to their political leaders. A healthy, modern democracy is a system composed of active citizens who play their part in transforming the country » [25].

In keeping with the work already carried out since the start of the parliamentary term in the Parliament of Wallonia, the Wallonia Regional Policy Declaration of 28 July 2017 embodies this change by calling for a democratic revival and an improvement in public governance founded on the four pillars of transparency, participation, responsibility and performance. Transparency concerns the comprehensibility of the rules and regulations, the operating methods, and the mechanisms, content and financing of the decisions. The aim of participation is the involvement of citizens and private actors, businesses and the non-profit sector by giving them the initiative as a matter of priority, with the State providing support and strategic direction. The text invokes a new citizenship of cooperation, public debate, active information and involvement. The responsibility thus promoted is mainly that of the representative – elected or appointed – and sees an increase in accountability. The relations between public authorities and associations need to be clarified. The text states that performance is defined by evaluating the impact of public action in economic, budgetary, employment, environmental and social matters. It establishes a desire for a drastic simplification of public institutions rightly regarded as too numerous and too costly [26].

As we can see, these options are interesting and they undoubtedly represent a step forward inspired by the idea of Open Government we have been calling for lately [27], even if they have not yet moved on to genuine collaborative governance, deliberation with all actors and citizens or co-construction of public policies beyond experiments with public panels.

Conclusion: a government of the citizens, by the citizens, for the citizens

Open Government is a matter of democracy, not technology. This model reconnects with Abraham Lincoln’s idea of government of the people, by the people, for the people, which ended his Gettysburg address of 19 November 1863 [28]. This powerful idea can be advantageous for all of the regions in Europe, for its States and for the European process as a whole. Here, as in the United States, the principle of Open Government must be adopted by all representatives and applied at all levels of governance[29]. Parliaments and regional councils, who have often already embarked on pioneering initiatives, must grasp it [30].

As Douglas Schuler stated, Open Government would make no sense if it was not accompanied by informed, conscious and engaged citizenship, if it did not mean governance fully distributed within the population, the end of government as the sole place of governance. So this observation refers back to the initial question: what skills and information do citizens need in order to understand the issues they must face? [31] We know the response of Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris to the philosopher Richard Price in 1789: a sense of necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that, whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights [32]. This question certainly requires a response linked to lifelong critical education, the importance of philosophy and history, and the teaching of citizenship, foresight and complexity we have discussed recently [33]. As Pierre Rosanvallon notes, it is a question of making society comprehensible for the public, of ensuring that they can have effective knowledge of the social world and the mechanisms that govern it, to enable individuals to have access to what the Collège de France Professor calls real citizenship: an understanding of the effective social relationships, redistribution mechanisms and problems encountered when creating a society of equals [34].

As we have repeatedly stated, Open Government and governance by the players require an open society [35], in other words, a common space, a community of citizens where everyone works together to consider and address shared issues for the common good. Moving from Open Government to an open State happens by extension and through the application of the principles mentioned, from the executive to the legislature and the judiciary, and to all the players upstream and downstream.

Where national governments have not yet launched their open governance strategy, they should start with the districts, cities and regions, which often have the benefit of flexibility and proximity with the players and citizens. Naturally, this requirement also implies that private organisations, too, should be more transparent and more open and become more involved.

Aligning these global ambitions, which have been adopted by the United Nations and passed on by the OECD, Europe and more than 70 nations around the world, with the expectations of our regional players appears to be within reach. It is up to us to complete this task with enthusiasm and determination, wherever we are in this society that dreams of a better world.


Philippe Destatte


[1] Barack OBAMA, Change we can believe in, Three Rivers Press, 2008. Translated into French under the title Le changement, Nous pouvons y croire, p. 180, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2009.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Ibidem, p. 181sv.

[4] Concerning accountability, which he prefers to translate by rendering of accounts, see Pierre ROSANVALLON, Le bon gouvernement, p. 269sv, Paris, Seuil, 2015.

[5] Memo from President Obama on Transparency and Open Government, January 21, 2009. Reproduced in Daniel LATHROP & Laurel RUMA ed., Open Government, Transparency, and Participation in Practice, p. 389-390, Sebastopol, CA, O’Reilly, 2010.

[6] For the background in the United States, see: Patrice McDERMOTT, Building Open Government, in Government Information Quarterly, no. 27, 2010, p. 401-413.

[7] Joint declaration on open government,

[8] La Belgique n’est toujours pas membre du Partenariat pour un Gouvernement ouvert, in Le Vif-L’Express, 11 August 2017.

[9] Déclaration de Paris, 4e Sommet mondial du Partenariat pour un Gouvernement ouvert, Open Government Partnership, 7 December 2016.

[10] See Philip E. TETLOCK, Expert Political Judgment, How good is it? How can we know? Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2005.

[11] Beth Simone NOVECK, Wiki Government: How technology can make government better, democracy stranger, and citizens more powerful, Brookings Institution Press, 2009. – The Single point of Failure, in Daniel LATHROP & Laurel RUMA ed., Open Government, Transparency, and Participation in Practice, p. 50, Sebastopol, CA, O’Reilly, 2010. For an empirical approach to Open Governance, see Albert J. MEIJER et al., La gouvernance ouverte: relier visibilité et moyens d’expression, in Revue internationale des Sciences administratives 2012/1 (Vol. 78), p. 13-32.

[12] Matt STOKES, Peter BAECK, Toby BAKER, What next for Digital Social Innovation?, Realizing the potential of people and technology to tackle social challenges, European Commission, DSI4EU, Nesta Report, May 2017.

[13] Freedom of access to information on the environment (1st report, Session 1996-97)

[14] Romain BADOUARD (lecturer at the Université Cergy-Pontoise), Open governement, open data: l’empowerment citoyen en question, in Clément MABI, Jean-Christophe PLANTIN and Laurence MONNOYER-SMITH dir., Ouvrir, partager, réutiliser, Regards critiques sur les données numériques, Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2017

[15] Albert J. MEIJER, Deirdre CURTIN & Maarten HILLEBRANDT, Open Government: Connecting vision and voice, in International Review of Administrative Sciences, 78, 10-29, p. 13.

[16] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 92sv. – see also the interesting analysis by Emad A. ABU-SHANAB, Reingineering the open government concept: An empirical support for a proposed model, in Government Information Quarterly, no. 32, 2015, p. 453-463.

[17] A citizen-centred culture of governance that utilizes innovative and sustainable tools, policies and practices to promote government transparency, responsiveness and accountability to foster stakeholdersparticipation in support of democracy and inclusive growth. OECD, Open Government, The Global context and the way forward, p. 19, Paris, OECD Publishing, 2016.

[18] OECD, Panorama des administrations publiques, p. 198, Paris, OECD, 2017. – See also, p. 29 and 30 of the same work, some specific definitions developed in various countries.

[19] Steven A. ROSELL ea, Governing in an Information Society, p. 21, Montréal, 1992.

[20] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence... p. 93.

[21] Ibidem.

[22] B. S. NOVECK, op.cit., p. 62-63.

[23] Sustainable Development Goals, 17 Goals to transform our world.

[24] Speech by the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron at the Open Government Partnership event held in parallel with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (19 September 2017) –

[25] Emmanuel MACRON, Révolution, p. 255-256 and 259, Paris, XO, 2016.

[26] Parliament of Wallonia, Session 2016-2017, Déclaration de politique régionale, « La Wallonie plus forte », 28 July 2017, DOC 880(2016-2017) – No. 1, p. 3-5.

[27] Olivier MOUTON, Une thérapie de choc pour la Wallonie, in Le Vif-L’Express, no. 44, 3 November 2017, p. 35.

[28] Carl MALAMUD, By the People, in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 41.

[29] Ibidem, p. 46.

[30] David BEETHAM, Parlement et démocratie au vingt-et-unième siècle, Guide des bonnes pratiques, Geneva, Parliamentary Union, 2006.

[31] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence... p. 93.

[32] Letter To Richard Price, Paris, January 8, 1789, in Thomas JEFFERSON, Writings, p. 935, New-York, The Library of America, 1984.

[33] Ph. DESTATTE, Apprendre au XXIème siècle, Citoyenneté, complexité et prospective, Liège, 22 September 2017.

[34] P. ROSANVALLON, Le bon gouvernement…, p. 246.

[35] Archon FUNG & David WEIL, Open Government and open society, in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 41.

Europe: the Union, from Rome (1957) to Rome (2017) – 1

Namur, 25 March 2017

The signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957 was not an isolated act. It should be seen in two contexts: that of a series of plans dreamt up in the late 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century (1) , and that of ambitious decisions taken immediately after the Second World War with the intention of restoring confidence, stabilising political, economic, social and financial relations between nations and bringing about the rebirth – or perhaps the birth – of true interdependence.

Interdependence among nations

The already old concept of economic and social interdependence was contrasted at this time by the journalist Emery Reves with the myth of total political independence, which he believed had produced the evils that were ravaging the globe, and might do so again in future (2). As François Bayrou recently wrote, ‘We Europeans (…) having travelled to the limits of hatred, having lost to it our cities and our boys, our violated daughters, our burned cities, the half-dead prisoners in the camps, utterly worn out and dishonoured, concluded that we turn back and take the other road; we had to choose peace and the human chain with which fires are put out and houses, factories and cathedrals built’ (3). By the end of the war, the main ambition was, first and foremost, to exist. Thus the determination to reaffirm or regain sovereignty was mingled with the desire for cooperation and the determination to build and regulate a world that, it was hoped, would be better, but whose limits and borders were hard to discern.

As early as July 1944, the Bretton Woods Agreement attempted to put an end to the monetary and financial muddle created by the Second World War. The international conferences at the end of the conflict culminated in the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations, signed by fifty states at the San Francisco Conference on 25 June 1945. Similarly, the effort to rebuild Europe undertaken in the European Recovery Program launched by US General George C. Marshall in 1947 required the establishment in 1948 of the body known from 1961 as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). From 1950 to 1958, the European Payments Union (EPU) was also part of the so-called Marshall Plan. 1949 saw the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with the objective of ensuring its members’ security. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe, set up by ten European countries in London on 5 May 1949, sought to promote human rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, and to develop and define convergent policies on education, culture and so on through intergovernmental action. Its Consultative Assembly can be regarded as the first European parliamentary assembly.

In this way a multilateral institutional context took shape, integrating Western Europe once more in a context of globalisation, and seeking to banish the old internal perils and guard against the new ones: as Churchill said in a speech given on 5 March 1946, ‘An iron curtain has descended across the Continent’ (4). It has also sometimes been pointed out that Stalin was the true founding father of the European project… perhaps we should add the name of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, given the decisive nature of his views on the continent from 1942 to 1961?

Moreover, since the first Congress of Europe in The Hague on 8-10 May 1948, bringing together numerous European activists and leading politicians, the idea had been taking hold of giving some substance to the concept of a ‘United States of Europe’ that had been dear to Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill and others. The former British Prime Minister had made a deep impression with his speech at the University of Zurich on 19 September 1946, following as he did in the footsteps of figures such as Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and Aristide Briand – not to mention Jules Destrée (5) and many others – in the search for a remedy for war and the misfortunes that had afflicted Europe: ‘What is this sovereign remedy?’ asked Churchill. ‘It is to recreate the European fabric, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, safety and freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing’ (6).

All that is needed… Yet no one except for nation states seemed able to express this resolve forcefully enough, to speak truly and legitimately on behalf of these men and women, and to open a constructive dialogue on these issues. Moreover, the divide between European federalists and unionists was even then well defined (7). And it would never really be closed.

A proactive and pragmatic process

Nevertheless, economic, political and social circles everywhere were aware of the need to extend their sphere of action to the international sphere. As the Economic Council of Wallonia – at that time a non-profit organisation – stated in its famous 1947 report to the Belgian Government, ‘It has now become indispensable to do so, and this enlargement can only be achieved through numerous economic agreements, or even unions. It is essential for our country to become part of a larger economic area and to find a market there that provides a stable outlet for a high percentage of its output.’ (8)  We may recall the phases of a proactive and pragmatic process. They proceed through the declaration – inspired by Jean Monnet (9) – of the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950 concerning a Franco-German agreement that was open to other European countries (10) , and that initiated the process leading to the signing on 18 April 1951 of the Treaty of Paris establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between six partners, in order to contribute, over 50 years, to ‘economic expansion, the development of employment and the improvement of the standard of living in the participating countries’ (11) ; the foundation of the European Defence Community (EDC) on 27 May 1952; and the resolve of the Six to create a European Political Community as an overarching political structure for the ECSC and the EDC. Altiero Spinelli succeeded in incorporating an Article 38 into the EDC Treaty, the purpose of which was to entrust the Assembly with the task of studying the creation of a new assembly elected on a democratic basis so as to constitute one of the elements of an ultimate federal or confederal structure, based upon the principle of the separation of powers and including, particularly, a bicameral representative system (12) . It is hard to believe that such a resolve could have been manifested in a forum of such importance at such a moment, and in any case, so soon after the war.

The premature ambition for a European Political Community

On 10 September 1952, on the basis of a proposal by the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, the six Foreign Ministers of the ECSC, meeting in Luxembourg, asked the Assembly of that institution, chaired by the former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, who was also president of the European Movement, to draw up a draft Treaty establishing the European Political Community (EPC) . The ECSC-EDC Joint Assembly had not yet been constituted, but nine additional delegates, members of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, were co-opted into the ECSC Assembly to make a total of 87 members. This new assembly, chaired by Spaak, was named the Ad Hoc Assembly and met in plenary session at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg. It appointed a Constitutional Committee from among its members, chaired by the German parliamentarian Heinrich von Brentano, then Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (13) . The Committee received input in the form of work done by the Action Committee for the European Constituent Assembly, and more particularly by the Study Group for the European Constitution, an initiative launched by Altiero Spinelli and Spaak in February 1952 to promote ‘the convening of a European Constituent Assembly’ (14) . It was Fernand Dehousse, Professor of International Law at the University of Liège, who gave permission for the Study Group’s reports, presented – following the American example – in the form of resolutions (15), to be used as working documents for the Constitutional Committee.

The draft treaty took the form of a draft European Constitution, or rather, more cautiously, of a draft Statute, probably following the use of this term for the Council of Europe. The text, however, echoes the manner of the American Constitution:

We, the Peoples of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Kingdom of Belgium, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of the Netherlands,
Considering that world peace may be safeguarded only by creative efforts equal to the dangers which menace it;
Convinced that the contribution which a living, united free Europe can bring to civilization and to the preservation of our common spiritual heritage is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations;
Desirous of assisting through the expansion of our production in improving the standard of living and furthering the works of peace;
Determined to safeguard by our common action the dignity, freedom and fundamental equality of men of every condition, race or creed;
Resolved to substitute for our historic rivalries a fusion of our essential interests by creating institutions capable of giving guidance to our future common destiny;
Determined to invite other European peoples, inspired with the same ideal, to join with us in our endeavour;

have decided to create a European Community.

The articles of the treaty recall the supranational character of the Political Community, founded upon a union of peoples and States, upon respect for their personality and upon equal rights and duties for all. It shall be indissoluble. The Community has the following mission and general aims: to contribute towards the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Member States; to co-operate with the other free nations in ensuring the security of Member States against all aggression; to ensure the co-ordination of the foreign policy of Member States in questions likely to involve the existence, the security or the prosperity of the Community; to promote, in harmony with the general economy of Member States, the economic expansion, the development of employment and the improvement of the standard of living in Member States, by means, in particular, of the progressive establishment of a common market, transitional or other measures being taken to ensure that no fundamental and persistent disturbance is thereby caused to the economy of Member States; to contribute towards the endeavours of Member States to achieve the general objectives laid down in the Statute of the Council of Europe, the European Convention for Economic Co-operation, and the North Atlantic Treaty, in co-operation with the other States parties thereto.

The text also states that the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and the supplementary Protocol signed in Paris on 20 March 1952 ‘are an integral part of the present Statute’ (16) . The document displays federalist conceptions: a bicameral parliament consisting of a Peoples’ Chamber elected by direct universal suffrage and a Senate whose members are elected by the national parliaments. The Parliament controls the Executive and has a genuine legislative function, which until then has been the responsibility of the Council of Ministers of the ECSC. Executive power is exercised by a Council answerable to the Peoples’ Chamber. Its president is chosen by the European Senate. The Constitution also includes the creation of a European Court of Justice and an Economic and Social Council. The EPC’s powers and competence relate to the coordination of the foreign, economic and financial policies of the Six.

The draft Treaty was adopted almost unanimously by the Ad Hoc Assembly on 10 March 1953 and handed over to the foreign ministers, who gave it a mixed reception (17) . The evident lack of commitment of Pierre Mendès France and the rejection of the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community by the French National Assembly on 30 August 1954 led to the abandonment of the plans for the Political Community (18). The efforts of the United States, which wanted Europe to take over its own defence and mobilise Germany’s military potential for the purpose, ultimately led to the establishment of the Western European Union (WEU), the Treaty for which was signed in Paris on 23 October 1954 between the Six and the United Kingdom (with headquarters in London) (19), within the framework of NATO, which Germany joined on 9 May 1955 – something that France had hitherto ‘always obstinately refused to do’ (20).

Towards the Treaty of Rome of 25 March 1957

At the Conference of Messina on 3 June 1955, on the proposal of Jean Monnet, the foreign ministers of the Six entrusted a committee of independent politicians chaired by Paul-Henri Spaak with the task of considering a relaunch of the process on the basis of the idea of a European atomic energy community and the creation of a large common market. The Diplomatic Conference of Val Duchesse (Brussels) in July 1955 opened the door to the creation of the European Economic Community.

It was therefore in a more favourable European political context (though at a time of serious international tensions), in which, besides Jean Monnet, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the French President Guy Mollet played a decisive role, that it was possible for the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community to be signed on 25 March 1957. The six signatory States – Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – defined as the purpose of their project ‘the economic and social progress of their countries’ and ‘the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples’. Their actions were to be carried out in common and would consist of ‘eliminat[ing] the barriers which divide Europe’. Through ‘concerted’ action they sought to ‘guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition’. They also affirmed that they were ‘anxious to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions’. These countries affirmed their desire to conduct ‘a common commercial policy’, and to contribute ‘to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade’. Finally, the signatories intended to ‘confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desir[ed] to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations’, affirmed their resolve ‘by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and Liberty’, and called upon ‘the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts’ (21).

Thus, the Treaty of Rome created a new plurinational space, with its own institutions producing legal norms applicable to the signatory Member States, their governments and their citizens. Nevertheless, it was clear from the institutions that were set up that this was a long way from the Churchillian idea of the United States of Europe, as well as from the experience of the ECSC. The High Authority became a Commission. Although it continued to express a common point of view, an interest that was European and as independent as possible, along with its monopoly over initiatives it yielded up its decision-making power to the Council of National Ministers. The latter was required to decide on proposals put to it by the Commission, and was often suspicious, regarding them as having been produced by a sphere that it often saw as technical, if not technicist or technocratic. As for the Parliamentary Assembly, its role was confined to the deliberative process as well as to the possibility of tabling a motion of censure against the Commission, the ECSC High Authority or Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community), which were established at the same time as the Common Market.

European integration was obviously set to be a long-term process. Nearly twenty years passed between Fernand Dehousse’s report of 30 April 1960 on the election of the European Parliamentary Assembly by direct universal suffrage – a fresh impetus derived from the 1953 Statute – and the implementation of this essential step. The European Council, ‘the last incarnation of deviations from the Community spirit’ as Dehousse described it (22), decided at a meeting in Brussels in 1976 to take a step towards the democratisation of Europe, despite French and British reluctance. The first election took place in June 1979. In the third edition of his book on the political system of the European Union, Paul Magnette sees this as ‘the only real “systemic shift” in the history of the European project’, by means of the creation of ‘a genuine space for parliamentary expression and the confrontation of world views’ (23).

Conclusion: Europe, a positive global force

Geneviève Duchenne reminded us in 2000 how ahead of his time Jules Destrée was when the former minister wrote that he advocated European economic integration rather than political integration, warning of the risk of ‘romantic illusions’ and the difficulty of the political path: ‘We may believe,’ he wrote, ‘that economic achievements are not impossible. It is quite remarkable that the authors of the Treaty of Versailles, in creating new nationalities, failed to see that they were causing Europe to bristle with customs barriers. To lower and eliminate such barriers among all the peoples of Europe is to bring down the cost of living and increase output and wages (24)’ . Whether we like it or not, it is this path that has been chosen since 1951, and even more since 1957, although the initial aims have not necessarily faded away.

Over time, the excessively weak elements of supranationality contained in the Treaty of Rome have been considerably reinforced by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice which, as Fernand Herman indicated in 1993, has finally gained acceptance, ‘not without reluctance or resistance, of the hierarchical superiority of the Community’s legal order over the national legal order, the possibility for citizens to obtain direct recognition and respect for the rights conferred on them by the Treaty or by Community legislation, the direct application of the rights contained in the directives, even where they have not been transposed into national law, the pre-emptive character of Community legislation, and the controls over the compatibility of national laws with the Community’s legal order’ (25) . The MEP also noted that the Single Act of February 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty of 7 February 1992 went further by increasing the powers of the European Parliament, ‘but above all by introducing the concept of European citizenship and guaranteeing citizens a series of fundamental rights as in a genuine constitution’ (26).

In fact, the Maastricht Treaty also opened up a major debate on the future of Europe and a period of chaos from which Europeans have definitely not yet emerged. In 1994, according to one of his former collaborators from the Foresight Unit, Jacques Delors said that ‘if in the next ten years we have not managed to breathe life into Europe and give it a soul, the game will be over’ (27) . Almost twenty-five years later, the debate remains open. Is the game over for the EU? It is probably true to say that never before have so many citizens rebelled against the functioning of the European Union, and never has the European project been so little defended by political leaders, as Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Guy Verhofstadt noted in 2012, at a time when there was still no talk of an acute refugee crisis or of Brexit. They were probably right to call for the defusing of the false rhetoric of Europe’s enemies, ‘those who recycle old nationalist, conservative and populist refrains’ (28) . But diatribes are not the best response to those experiencing doubts. It probably takes more to convince them.

In his book Europe: le continent perdu?, Philippe Maystadt has clearly shown that the European Union, and in particular the Eurozone, is the most appropriate level of coordination for the three reasons he explains at length: first, because it constitutes an economic space and a relevant market; second, because ‘it offers an efficient area for monetary policy’; and finally, because it is able to create a better balance of power with the rest of the world than the countries of which it is composed (29) . As the former president of the EIB says, ‘the issue is essentially a matter of political choices. One can play with semantics and avoid the term “federalism”, but one cannot hide the reality: a monetary union cannot work without harmonisation of economic and budgetary policies – in other words, without political union’ (30) .

It seemed to me a useful exercise to recall the attempt that was made to launch a European Political Community starting before 1957, based on the liberal and democratic values of Europe and the United States. Guy Verhofstadt was right to point out the importance of this experiment recently (31). Nevertheless, despite the EPC’s failure, it would be wrong to see the Treaty of Rome as too much of a fundamental step back from the fervour of Fernand Dehousse, Altiero Spinelli, Heinrich von Brentano and a few others who were particularly attached to these values. To quote a group of researchers who worked under the Secretary General of the Commission of the European Communities and President of the European Institute in Florence, Émile Noël, ‘when one takes into account the qualitative leap that the conferral of legislative power on the Community institutions represents, the Treaty of Rome was a substantial step forward and corresponded to an increase rather than a dilution of Community powers’ (32). During the past seventy years, whatever some people claim, these values have not ceased to be at the centre of European concerns and of its integration process. The debates on the European Charter of 2000, the Treaty of Rome of 2004 and the European Constitution have clearly shown that the democracy of the Member States’ governments is not that of the Europeans represented in the EU Parliament. This is a point to which we will definitely return.

Contrary to what certain candidates for the French presidency would have us believe, and even some friends or politicians who are close to us in Wallonia, neither Europe nor our countries will withdraw into self-sufficiency, restrictions on movements, narrow patriotism or parochialism. Whether they form states or regions, federated or otherwise, we must always bear in mind the formula that the former European Commissioner Jean Rey made his own and shared with his political friends in 1976: ‘Without European unity, regionalisms are merely separatisms, forever incomplete, which wear themselves out in their exasperation’ (33). ‘European integration is the only right way forward for the countries of the EU and those which could become associated with it in future,’ (34) said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel much more recently . Of course, much of the construction work remains to be done, and we would be wrong to think that it is only the French who are in the situation of complaining ‘regularly about Brussels, Germany, the whole world at times’, but of failing to ‘make any public and precise proposal that would lead to the creation of a more democratic and social Europe’ (35) . My experience over the past two decades has shown that the European Parliament, the Commission with its various Directorates-General, the Economic and Social Council, the Committee of the Regions, and even the European Council, far from being the smooth, cold, ungrippable wall often described, open up spaces of governance and consultation that are not fundamentally different from those we know in our countries, regions and territories. To be sure, democracy is not optimal on either side. But I do not believe that bureaucracy or technocracy are any worse at European level than at other levels of government, and I am convinced that arbitrariness, especially political arbitrariness, is less pronounced there, or at least better controlled. The major weakness on all sides is, fundamentally, the lack of understanding as to how the institutions work on the part of the citizens and also of some politicians. It is also acknowledged that the lack of knowledge of the European institutions has probably reached a point beyond the reach of any – or almost any – educational effort (36).

It is not an act of provocation to quote today the President of the European Commission which, on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, wrote that ‘A positive global force, Europe’s prosperity will continue to depend on its openness and strong links with its partners’ (37). For me, a European who is convinced of the rightness of the path that has been taken and determined to continue along it, it is simply a path of common sense.

Surely, in today’s world, as at the end of the war, we cannot enter the fray alongside women or men who are cautiously European… ‘Woe to the lukewarm,’ Diderot proclaimed, alluding to The Book of Revelation. ‘Those without enough material to make honest people or rascals from’ (38) added the philosopher of the Enlightenment.

Philippe Destatte

(1) See for example Geneviève DUCHENNE, Visions et projets belges pour l’Europe, De la Belle Epoque aux Traités de Rome (1900-1957), Brussels, Presses interuniversitaires européennes, 2001.
(2) Emery REVES, Anatomy of Peace, New York, Harpers and Brothers, 1945. The concept of interdependence is of course older. In particular, it is found a century earlier in Marx and Engels: ‘In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.’ K. MARX & Fr. ENGELS, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), p.18, Marxists Internet Archive ( 1987, 2000, 2010.
(3) François BAYROU, Résolution française, p. 273, Paris, L’Observatoire / Humensis, 2017.

(4) Speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, 5 March 1946. (BBC Archives)

(5) ‘Socialists are certainly internationalists, and I agree with my friends that it is good to multiply agreements between peoples, to generalise the conquests of civilization, to strengthen the ties between all members of the great human family. But the International, by definition, supposes nations. The more logically constituted, strongly organised, independent and free these nations are, the more fruitful and solid the agreements they form among themselves will be. A centralist despotism which suppressed the life of the nationalists by force would be the precise antithesis of the International. One may therefore dream of the United States of Europe and cherish one’s country.’ ‘Letter to the King about the Separation of Wallonia and Flanders’, in Journal de Charleroi, 24 August 1912, p. 2. In 1916, the parliamentarian from Charleroi wrote: ‘And we can see more clearly the magnitude of the consequences of the present war: it will lead us either (which seems unlikely) to the despotic hegemony of a sovereign people by Force, or to a Federation of United States of Europe by Freedom and Law ‘. J. DESTREE, Les socialistes et la guerre européenne, 1914-1915, p. 130, Brussels-Paris, Librairie nationale d’art et d’histoire, G. Van Oest & Cie, 1916. See Geneviève DUCHENNE, Jules Destrée diplomate, de la Grande Guerre à l’idée d’Europe, in Patricia VANERCK (ed.), Musée Jules Destrée, p. 145-171, Charleroi, Echevinat de la Culture, 2000.
(6) Zurich, 19 September 1946:

(7) Bertrand VAYSSIERE, Vers une Europe fédérale ? Les espoirs et les actions fédéralistes au sortir de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Brussels, Presses internuniversitaires européennes, Peter Lang, 2007.

(8) Economie wallonne, Rapport présenté au Gouvernement belge par le Conseil économique wallon, 20 May 1947, p. 210, Liège, Ed. CEW, 1947.

(9) Jean Monnet (1888-1979), a French economist, former Deputy Secretary-General of the League of Nations, author of the first French Modernisation and Equipment Plan, initiated the Coal-Steel Pool and inspired the Schuman Plan. After chairing the Conference which drafted the ECSC Treaty, he directed the ECSC’s High Authority. He resigned in 1954 to set up the Action Committee for the United States of Europe and to prepare the Treaty of Rome.

(10) ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries. With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point. It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.’ The Schuman Declaration, 9 May 1950.

(11) Signed by Paul Van Zeeland (BE), Konrad Adenauer (DE), Robert Schuman (F), Carlo Sforza (I), Joseph Bech (LU), Dirk Uipko Stikker (N). Jean-Claude ZARKA, Traités européens, p. 6, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Gualino, 2016.
(12) Résolution adoptée le 10 septembre 1952, à Luxembourg, par les six ministres des Affaires étrangères sur l’élaboration d’un projet de traité instituant une Communauté politique européenne. Assemblée ad hoc. Débats – compte rendu in extenso des séances, Documents relatifs à la création de l’Assemblée ad hoc, Luxembourg: Service des Publications de la Communauté européenne, 1954. 584 p. p. 6-8.
Resolution adopted on 10 September 1952 at Luxembourg by the six Ministers for Foreign Affairs – by

(13) Heinrich von Brentano (1904-1964), a member of the Bundestag, became Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs under Konrad Adenauer, succeeding the latter in this position when he became Chancellor (1955-1961).

(14) Comité d’études pour la Constitution européenne, Projet de statut de la Communauté politique européenne, Travaux préparatoires, p. 9, Brussels, Mouvement européen, November 1952. – Claudi Giulio ANTA, Les pères de l’Europe, Sept portraits, p. 110, Brussels, Presses interuniversitaires européennes – Peter Lang, 2007. – B. VAYSSIERE, Vers une Europe fédérale ? Les espoirs et les actions fédéralistes au sortir de la Seconde Guerre mondiale…, p. 306-308. The Study Committee for the European Constitution was composed of P-H Spaak (chairman), Fernand Dehousse (secretary general), Altiero Spinelli, Piero Calamandrei and Hans Nawiasky, as well as four parliamentarians, Max Becker and Hermann Pünder (Bundestag), Pierre de Félice (French National Assembly), Lodovico Benvenuti (Italian Chamber of Deputies), a lawyer, Cornelis Van Rij, and an adviser to the Supreme Court of Justice of Luxembourg, Arthur Calteux, joined by Henri Frenay. The Committee also received assistance from two Harvard lawyers, Robert Bowie and Carl Friedrich, who were specialists in federalism.

(15) Resolutions adopted by the Study Committee for the European Constitution, Brussels, November 1952. First Resolution: Preamble and General Proposals. ‘An indissoluble European Community is instituted by the present Statute. This Community, created on the initiative of the Member States of the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Defence Community, is concluded between their peoples. It has the aim, through establishing a closer bond between the said peoples, of guaranteeing the common well-being, existence and external security of the Member States and of protecting the constitutional order, democratic institutions and fundamental freedoms.’ Comité d’études pour la Constitution européenne, Discussion sur le préambule, Séance du 30 septembre 1952, in Bernard BRUNETEAU, Histoire de l’idée européenne au second XXème siècle à travers les textes, n°28, coll. U, Paris, A. Colin, 2008. – Comité d’études pour la Constitution européenne, Projet de statut de la Communauté politique européenne, Travaux préparatoires…, p. 234. – A first-rate lawyer, Fernand Dehousse was born in Liège in 1906 and died there in 1976. He co-wrote L’Etat fédéral en Belgique with Georges Truffaut from 1938, and worked on numerous international initiatives both at the UN and at European level. A senator from 1950 to 1971, he was Belgian Minister of Education (1965-1966) and of Community Relations (1971-1972).
(16) Draft Treaty embodying the Statute of the European Community adopted by the Ad Hoc Assembly, in Strasbourg on 10 March 1953, p. 1.
Communauté politique européenne, Projet du 10 mars 1953. – Richard T. GRIFFITHS, Europe’s First Constitution: the European Political Community (1952-54), London, Federal Trust, 2000 & 2005.

(17) Etienne DESCHAMPS, La Communauté politique européenne,, 8 July 2016.
(18) Christophe REVEILLARD, Les premières tentatives de construction d’une Europe fédérale. Des projets de la Résistance au traité de CED (1940-1954), Paris, F.-X. de Guibert, 2001.
(19) The Western European Union was also an enlargement to Germany and Italy of the 1948 Treaty of Brussels, which already united the other partners, but the military powers included in this treaty were transferred to NATO in 1950.

(20) Paul-Henri SPAAK, Combats inachevés, De l’indépendance à l’Alliance, p. 292, Paris, Fayard, 1969.

(21) Traité instituant la Communauté européenne, signé à Rome le 25 mars 1957, in Union européenne, Recueil des Traités

(22) Fernand DEHOUSSE, ‘Élection du Parlement européen au suffrage universel’ in Eur-Info, August-September 1976.

(23) Paul MAGNETTE, Le régime politique de l’Union européenne, p. 14, Paris, Presses de la Fondation nationale des Sciences politiques, 2009.
(24) Jules DESTREE, ‘Les Etats-Unis d’Europe’, in Pour en finir avec la guerre, p. 54-55, Brussels, L’Eglantine, 1931. – G. DUCHENNE, Jules Destrée, diplomate…, p. 168.

(25) Fernand HERMAN, ‘Une constitution pour l’Europe’, in L’Echo de la Bourse, 8 October 1993, reproduced in Fernand HERMAN, Europa Patria Mea, Chronique de 15 années de vie politique, économique et sociale européenne, p. 67-68, Brussels, Didier Devillez Editeur, 2006. – Paul Magnette seems to take a more nuanced view of the evolution of the Court’s positions since the Maastricht Treaty: P. MAGNETTE, Le régime politique de l’Union européenne…, p. 205 ff. See also Renaud DEHOUSSE, La fin de l’Europe, Paris, Flammarion, 2005.
(26)  Ibidem.

(27) Marc LUYCKX, ‘Réflexions prospectives sur l’identité européenne’, in Nathalie TOUSIGNANT (ed.), Les identités de l’Europe: repères et prospective, p. 129, Louvain-la-Neuve, UCL, Institut d’Etudes européennes, 1998.

(28) Daniel COHN-BENDIT and Guy VERHOFSTADT, Debout l’Europe !, p. 8 and 36, Brussels, Actes Sud – André Versailles, 2012.
(29) Philippe MAYSTADT, Europe, le continent perdu ? , p. 66 ff, Waterloo, Ed. Avantpropos, 2012.

(30) Ibidem, p. 128.

(31) Guy VERHOFSTADT, Le mal européen, p. 36-37 and 382 ff, Paris, Plon, 2016.

(32) Lambros COULOUBARITSIS, Marc DE LEEUW, Emile NOEL, Claude STERCKX, Aux sources de l’identité européenne, p. 123, Brussels, Presses interuniversitaires européennes, 1993.

(33) CRéER, Manifeste, Liège, Club pour les Réformes, l’Europe et les Régions, n.d. (1976), p. 4.

(34) Sigmar GABRIEL, ‘Pour une Europe plus forte !’, in Le Figaro, 23 March 2017, p. 16.

(35) Stéphanie HENNETTE, Thomas PIKETTY, Guillaume SACRISTE, Antoine VAUCHEZ, Pour un traité de démocratisation de l’Europe, p. 42, Paris, Seuil, 2017.
(36) ‘Institutions, Democracy and its dilemmas, The EU institutions need reforms’, in The Economist, Special Report, The Future of the European Union, March 25th-31st 2017, p. 14. ‘National politicians in many countries remain shamefully ignorant of the EU and its rules, and too few MEPS see it as a part of their role to help educate them.’

(37) Commission presents White Paper on the Future of Europe: Avenues for unity for the EU-27, European Commission, press release, Brussels, 1 March 2017.

(38) Lettre à mademoiselle Volland, 18 October 1760, quoted in Pierre HERMAND, Les idées morales de Diderot, coll. Biblothèque de la Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Paris, Paris, PuF, 1923.