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high level grouPS




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,


​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 2024:

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
Previous chair:  + John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland (2018-2024)


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 managing director at the World Bank, co-chair of the Club of Rome
Previous chair:  + John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland (2018-2024)
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
Neighbourhood Interdependencies (since 2023)
Sir Ivan Rogers, former Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the EU


The HLGs operational platform is provided by the asbl Centre Condorcet. They have their own research team:

  • Stefan Schepers - Executive Director

  • Dan Andrée – Senior Fellow

  • Peter Csoka – Senior Fellow

  • Marc Dreyer – Senior Fellow

  • Brian Scott-Quinn – Senior Fellow

  • Diana Borcea - Research Fellow

  • Noemi Sara Gentile – Research Assistant

  • Gabriel Lecumberri - Research Fellow

  • João Pillon - Research Fellow

  • 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.

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