high level grouPS
PUBLIC POLICY INNOVATION
An independent, tripartite High Level Group (HLG) offers a method for structured dialogue at the early stages of policy making, designed to:
Align divergent (public, private, academic sector) views about a particular policy sector or issues of strategic importance;
Improve collective understanding and consensus between public and private stakeholders, with a multiplying potential to others;
Inject ‘outside-the-box’, creative and holistic ideas into the EU policy making system to achieve better outcomes for all;
Develop strategic and feasible policy recommendations.
A HLG operates as a temporary public-private think tank, fully independent. It sets its own agenda and is not bound by any legalistic constraints. Therefore, it is fundamentally different from the formal high level groups set up by the EU Commission to advise within a strict mandate.
These groups have a tripartite composition: members come from national governments, corporations and associations from different sectors, universities and research centres, Commission, Council Secretariat.
All participants operate without mandate, to stimulate trust, creativity and serendipity of discussions. All discussions take place under a neutral chair and under so-called ‘Chatham House’ rules (no one is quoted publicly). They are supported by their own research team, guided by the academic members.
All reports and recommendations are agreed by consensus. Final reports go out under responsibility of the chair and the executive director. The work is organised by the Centre Condorcet, www.centrecondorcet.eu.
The first HLG was launched by the Polish Council Presidency in December 2011, to work on research and innovation policy management. Its impactful outcome led the Irish (in 2013) and Italian Presidencies (in 2014) to continue its mandate; later its method became used also in other policy domains. The initiative to set up such a group comes mostly from one of the member governments.
The concept goes back to the so-called ‘Castle Gymnich’ meetings, initiated in the 1970s by German Foreign Minister Genscher in order to have an informal, private discussion among Foreign Ministers. Because of its usefulness it was later extended to other Councils and evolved into the informal Council meeting. However, over time these became too large to allow for brainstorming and creative thinking in a trusted context. Also, Council working groups could not fill the void.
Hence the search for a new, more efficient method of preliminary policy brainstorming.
Chairpersons of the High Level Groups operating in 2023:
Systems Innovations (since 2012)
Tobias Krantz, former Minister for Research of Sweden
Previous chair : Klaus Gretschmann, former director general EU Council Secretariat (2012-2021)
Trade Policy Innovation (since 2017)
John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland and EU Ambassador to the USA
Biosphere Economy Innovation (since 2018)
Phil Hogan, former EU Commissioner for Agriculture
Previous chair: José Silva Rodriguez, former director general EU Commission
Africa-Europe Partnership (since 2019)
Mamphela Ramphele, former director at the World Bank, co-chair of the Club of Rome
Financing Sustainability Transition (since 2019)
Pietro Carlo Padoan, former Minister of Economy and Finance of Italy
Previous chair : Jeroen Dijsselbloem, former Dutch Minister of Finance (2019-2021)
Governance innovation (since 2020)
Nout Wellink, former Chairman of the Dutch Central Bank and member of the ECB Board
Forestry & Biomaterials (since 2021)
Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland
Clean Energies & Supply Security (since 2022)
Andris Piebalgs, former EU Commissioner for Energy
The HLGs operational platform is provided by the asbl Centre Condorcet. They have their own research team:
Stefan Schepers - Executive Director
Adam Sebesta - Research Fellow
Diana Borcea - Research Assistant
Gabriel Lecumberri - Research Fellow
João Pillon - Research Assistant
Mara Grimminger - Research Assistant
Thomas Tugler - Research Fellow
Extracts from a speech by former EU President Herman Van Rompuy, October 2013
What is at stake in the European Union is the future of our socio-economic model and our role in the world. For this, we need competitiveness. Competitiveness that is today under pressure.
The only way to recover it, is innovation.
As the Nobel Prize for economy Edmund PHELPS rightly stated recently,
"it is an 'innovation crisis' that is at the origin of our economic decline".
Innovation is the ability of a system not only to produce new ideas but also to bring them to the markets,
and translate them into economic growth and prosperity.
An integrated approach on innovation is what would make the difference, in the same way as what took place during the early phases of the Single Market. An explicit agreement between all relevant actors, public and private, to make "fostering innovation and its effects on competitiveness and employment" an overarching and imperative goal for European policies.
Let me, in particular, congratulate the Polish Presidency, which launched in December 2011 the initiative
to establish a High Level Group on "Innovation Policy”
The initiative was in itself innovative: "to think outside the box, to develop new approaches
and to make original contributions to the European innovation thinking".
To trigger a deep exchange of views between those working on governance
and those leading the way in industry, so that both sides could learn from each other.
This methodology manages to present a consensus of the main actors in inspiring terms,
two qualities that seldom go together.