Visualising Europe’s futures and their impact on European citizenship

Posted on 18. September 2013

by Leticia Díez Sánchez

Leticia Diez Sanchez NEWFrom 7-9 July, I took part in a scenario-based workshop organised by NECE (Networking European Citizenship Education) and supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, part of the alliance behind FutureLab Europe. The aim of the workshop was to envision different models of society that might prevail in Europe and their corresponding tailored structures of citizenship education. The novelty of the event consisted of the use of the “scenario methodology”, a structured method to collectively imagine possible futures based on current relevant trends. Future is uncertain and different outcomes are possible. The making of scenarios helps us to anticipate various visions that would be neglected if we simply carry out a singe forecast. Upcoming circumstances might go towards one of the scenarios planned or even change direction from one to another scenario. Thus, we can anticipate what we are going to do if such a circumstance arises – what are our options, what would we want to achieve in that situation, and what would be our roadmap? Applying this strategy to the future of Europe and its society, we designed two axes and four possible scenarios arising when combining them. The first, horizontal axe consisted of a more united or diverse Europe (i.e., further political/economic integration versus a more disintegrated, intergovernmental structure). The second, vertical axe consisted of a top-down or bottom-upEurope (meaning one steered by political and economic elites, or one lead by civil society and citizens). The different scenarios resulted as follows: a united,top-down Europe; a united, bottom-up Europe; a diverse, top-down Europeand a diverse, bottom-up Europe.

  • United/Top-Down Europe: This scenario follows the logic of further political and economic integration demanded by the current eurozone crisis (evidenced in measures such as the Six Pack and the Two Pack for the coordination of national economies). Here, the EU develops more federalist structures but with the lead and/or unique support of its political elites (perhaps the prevailing trend from its founding years). Civil society here is predominantly passive and/or against the European project, as well as excluded to a certain extent from the decision-making process.
  • United/Bottom-Up Europe: Here, civil society takes the lead for a more integrated Europe, albeit one where bottom structures dominate the process (NGOs, educational institutions, localities of groups of citizens). The structures we can imagine would go in the line of “democratic glocalisation” previously mentioned in this blog, and presuppose and active, engaged citizenship as a whole.
  • Diverse/Top-Down Europe: In this scenario, Europe follows the path of a more intergovernmental institution where countries tend to seek the protection of their very sensitive national interests and hence EU-level decisions and structures are minimal. This diversification is steered by political elites, who seek to restrict civil society’s actions to the national level, and hence a European-wide society and European identity remain (intentionally) marginalised.
  • Diverse/Bottom-Up: This last scenario presupposes a situation where is civil society itself who prefers to keep the diversity of Europe against elite-led projects of European integration. Here, national/regional/local communities maintain differentiated structures and “ways of doing”, and supranational coordination takes place only when strictly necessary and in topics of concern for the citizen (such as global warming).

How does this affect citizenship education in Europe?1 The different models of society following or leading to the different scenarios presented will have different needs as to the way they interact with the national and European polities. Hence, the education they receive as citizens (the visions we wish to develop in order to correct the deficiencies of the political system or in order to potentiate the advantages of such system), will vary. For instance, in a united/bottom-up Europe, citizenship education would seek to prepare citizens for their involvement in a more federal EU, given that the top-down process will presumably leave them aside, uninterested in or wary of the European project.

As Marian develops in her blog, the challenge of the next times will be to thrive in ambiguity, now that the grand theories and narratives of the past stand for nothing. Multilayered civic identities are needed in a multilevel structure of governance, yet political transformations often happen quickly and citizens’ allegiances lag behind. Scenario-based planning can provide valuable tools to react to an uncertain future. Here, the challenge will be to seek a model of civic education that takes into account not only the needs of a passive citizenry, but also the preferences of an active one.


  1. Citizenship education is here understood as that part of formal or informal, young or adult education enabling people to gain an understanding of the political, legal and economic functions of adult society, and with the social and moral awareness to thrive in it (Citizenship Foundation).