European Council on Foreign Relations

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European Council on Foreign Relations
European Council on Foreign Relations
Abbreviation ECFR
Organisation Think tank
Formation 2007
Headquarters London
Offices Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Sofia, Warsaw
Director Mark Leonard

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think tank.[1] Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy.

ECFR's founding chart was signed by former European prime ministers, business leaders, public intellectuals and activists. It has offices in seven European capitals – Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Warsaw and Sofia – and is led by its Director, Mark Leonard and CEO Dick Oosting. ECFR's Council brings together over 160 prominent and influential Europeans from 27 countries.

Awards and recognition[edit]

ECFR was named "Best New Think Tank in the World" for 2009 and 2010 by the University of Pennsylvania in its annual Global "Go-To Think-Tanks" report.[2][3] In November 2010, ECFR was named “Best British-based think tank dealing with non-British affairs” at Prospect Magazine’s Think Tank of the Year Award.[4]

In 2011, the academic responsible for compiling the University of Pennsylvania rankings, Dr James G. McGann, wrote in a book on global think tanks: “The fact that ECFR attempts to pursue policy advice and research through a pan-European focus means that it is free from the national restrictions of operating with one particular state framework in mind. In this sense, it is able to prescribe solutions and recommendations that benefit Europe as a whole and perhaps to a much greater extent than if they had done so with only, for example, the interests of Germany or France in mind. A framework that incorporates all the various workings and desires of each of the affected actors is far more likely to be successful from a long-term standpoint than one that attempts to resolve a regional or global issue by pushing for a solution that only benefits or alleviates the concerns of an individual state.”[5]

The Council[edit]

ECFR's Council currently has over 170 members,[6] each serving a renewable three-year term. The membership includes four former presidents of European nations, 12 former prime ministers, seven current and 17 former foreign ministers, five former EU commissioners, three former NATO secretaries general, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, eight senior UN officials, 33 current or former heads of civil society organisations, 22 current or retired professors, nine current or former heads of banks and 15 current or retired journalists. The Council meets once a year as a full body. In addition, groups of council members form various geographical and thematic task forces, which provide ECFR staff with advice and feedback on policy ideas and assist with ECFR's activities within their own countries. The Council is chaired by Martti Ahtisaari, Joschka Fischer and Mabel van Oranje. ECFR's board members are: Martti Ahtisaari, Emma Bonino, Joschka Fischer, Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Krastev, Ana Palacio, Andrew Puddephatt, Aleksander Smolar, Javier Solana and Mabel van Oranje.

Programmes, publications and events[edit]

The think tank's research is broadly divided into three programmes. These are China, Wider Europe and Middle East and North Africa.[7] ECFR's fellows regularly also publish policy papers and articles on subjects that fall outside of these parameters, for example on the euro crisis. ECFR also has a major ongoing project entitled The Reinvetion of Europe. ECFR publishes individual policy reports, briefs and memos, which are downloadable for free from the ECFR's website. It also has three regular publications, the annual European Foreign Policy Scorecard, started in 2011;[8][9] China Analysis (quarterly) and an annual review of the EU and human rights at the UN. ECFR's six national offices hold regular events, including seminars, ginger groups and publication launches, including ECFR London's invitation-only ‘Black Coffee Mornings,’ at which guest speakers have included Louise Arbour, Joseph Nye and George Robertson.[10]


This programme explores how the EU could pursue more effective strategies in its relations with China on global issues like energy and climate change; development and human rights; nuclear proliferation and global governance. The programme publishes China Analysis, a quarterly analytical survey of foreign policy news and debate within China, in conjunction with Asia Centre.

Wider Europe[edit]

The Wider Europe programme examines the EU’s relationships with its eastern neighbours, including Russia and Turkey. It examines what can be done to use the prospect of EU membership and economic, military and political cooperation to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, resolve frozen conflicts and lessen the threat of energy dependence.

Middle East and North Africa[edit]

ECFR's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) programme, headed by Daniel Levy, was founded in 2011 in response to the dramatic regional developments popularly dubbed as the ‘Arab Spring’. The programme’s establishment centred on the understanding that in light of these seismic changes, Europe would need to strategically re-think its relationships with its Middle Eastern neighbours in order to be on “the right side of history”.[11]

The MENA Programme asserts that its mission is to contribute to a new set of policies that support the democratic momentum in the region; transform conflict and security debates to de-escalate crises and where possible drive peace-building solutions; reset EU-MENA relations; guide EU member states in their pursuit of the new opportunities while encouraging them to play a more active diplomatic problem-solving role.[11]

To this end the programme produces analysis and policy recommendations in the forms of publications, contributions and op-eds in the international media, blog posts, videos, and podcasts, in addition to convening events and private briefings across Europe and the region.[12] Publications produced by the programme have included: how the EU can play a leading role in supporting pluralism after the North African revolutions;[13] an outline of the regional stances and diplomatic strategies on the conflict in Syria;[14] a power audit of Europe's North African relations;[15] how Europe can help Lebanon to avoid a descent into chaos;[16] the urgency of reform in Jordan;[17] and the need to reset European relations with Algeria.[18]

As the MENA Programme expanded in reputation and influence, in the summer of 2012 it set up a dedicated project to focus solely on the Israel/Palestine conflict. This sub-project works in a similar way to the MENA programme, and seeks both to generate awareness about the dangers of the current impasse and better understand the conflict’s roots, but principally it aims to explore ways in which to re-think, re-frame and create a stronger basis for progress on Israel-Palestine. Its first publication “Europe and the Vanishing Two Sate Solution” was released in May 2013, authored by ECFR’s Senior Policy Fellow Nick Witney.[19]

Germany in Europe[edit]

ECFR’s Germany in Europe project is intended to promote a broad discussion, in Germany and beyond, about the German role in Europe. It is intended to generate ideas about how to reintegrate Germany into the process of developing a globally assertive and responsible Europe. The project is supported by Stiftung Mercator.

The European Foreign Policy Scorecard[edit]

ECFR's European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010 was published in March 2011, and is the first in an annual series, representing the first systematic attempt to assess European foreign policy performance. The Scorecard grades Europe's ability to project its influence abroad across 80 policy issues, grouped into six chapters – relations with China, relations with the US, relations with Russia, relations with Wider Europe, multilateral issues and crisis management. The Scorecard was published as a hard copy report and online.


ECFR is a private not-for-profit organisation that relies on donations.[20] It was established with the support of Open Society Foundations, Communitas Foundation and Fundación Para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE). Its partners and funders are foundations, corporations, governments and individuals.


ECFR publishes several comment and analysis pieces per week on foreign policy issues on its website. The site also houses a blog, ‘Whose World Order?’, on which ECFR staff and experts write about the organisation's work, international affairs and Europe's place in the world. ECFR also publishes regular podcasts in English and occasional podcasts in French, German, Italian and Spanish.[21] ECFR's Madrid office has its own Spanish-language blog. ECFR has a Facebook page and Twitter feed, which is @ECFR.

Board and Council Members[edit]

The European Council on Foreign Relations meets as a full body once a year to discuss how to advance its objectives through innovative projects with a pan-European focus. The current board of the Council is: Martti Ahtisaari (co-chair), Emma Bonino, Joschka Fischer (co-chair), Karin Forseke, Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Krastev, Andrew Puddephatt, Aleksander Smolar, Javier Solana and Mabel van Oranje (co-chair).

The Council has over one hundred and seventy members, including former prime ministers, presidents, European commissioners, current and former parliamentarians and ministers, public intellectuals, business leaders, activists and cultural figures from the EU member states and candidate countries.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ ECFR About
  2. ^ McGann, James. "The Global "Go-To Think Tanks" Report 2009". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  3. ^ McGann, James. "The Global "Go-To Think Tanks" Report 2010". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  4. ^ ""Think Tank of the Year Awards—the winners" in Prospect Magazine". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  5. ^ McGann, Sabatini (2011). Global Think Tanks: Policy Networks and Governance. UK: Routledge. 
  6. ^ "ECFR Council page". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  7. ^ "ECFR Programmes page". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  8. ^ "Brookings' web page". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  9. ^ El País. 5 April 2011 Retrieved 1 June 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "ECFR News page". 
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  20. ^ "ECFR About page". Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  21. ^ "ECFR multimedia". Retrieved 1 June 2011.