CEPS Ideas Lab

Our Annual Flagship Event

CEPS Ideas Lab

Our Annual Flagship Event

About Ideas Lab

Launched in 2014, the Ideas Labs are organised with an overall theme in mind but in a way designed to allow ample space for reflection on a wide variety of policy areas. Ideas Lab is the most high-profile annual event on policies of the European Union.

The aim of Ideas Lab is to provide a high-level intellectual forum for exchanges concerning the wide range of current and pressing issues faced by the EU. The discussions are open, insightful and impactful, with the active involvement of policymakers, researchers and representatives from industries and the civil society.

Moving Europe from darkness into light / 28 February – 1 March 2023

With Russia’s war of aggression, the EU’s central mission – to bring peace and prosperity to Europe – has become more difficult but it is now even more essential than ever before. The war has vividly illustrated the importance of shared values and the enhanced security that common institutions can create. As Jean Monnet predicted: ‘Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises’. 12 months after the start of the war it is time to evaluate whether the EU’s adopted responses have worked. Have they created the more resilient Union that we need to safely navigate a much more dangerous world?

The 2023 edition of Ideas Lab will examine how well the EU has fared in facing up to the challenges of the last year and will critically examine what has worked and what still needs to be changed.

Early on the first day, we will look at the state of public opinion. How have Europeans reacted to these unprecedented challenges? Is there a new willingness to forge common policies in energy, security and defence? After the Opening Plenary, the lab sessions will examine the many policy issues currently facing the EU in further detail. It is not enough to have a grand strategy – policy must work and be implemented properly to yield tangible benefits.

This is the unique added value the Ideas Lab offers: hundreds of experts who can dissect EU policies in many domains under one roof, in the presence of the policymakers who actively participate in the deliberations. As many points of view as possible will be represented, ensuring a lively and boisterous discussion.

Read the full programme 


Peace and prosperity for Europe: An impossible dream? / 2022

This year we brought you once again an in-person edition of our flagship event! For this 9th edition, ‘Peace and prosperity for Europe: An impossible dream?’, we hosted a one-day event bringing together our team of researchers and leading experts in EU policymaking across many different fields. From soaring energy prices, the unprecedented wave of refugees caused by the war in Ukraine and the rapidly evolving threat to Europe’s security, the Ideas Lab programme delved into today’s key challenges.

The +50 speakers included Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Štěpán Černý, Director-General for European Affairs at the Government Office, Czech Republic, Polina Yarova, Director of Debt Policy Department, Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, Eva Maydell, Member of the European Parliament, Anthony Teasdale, Director General, European Parliamentary Research Service and many more.

To help set the scene of the current geopolitical and economic landscape, we published prior to Ideas Lab a special report entitled ‘A transformational moment? The EU’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine’ in which CEPS contributors dive deep into their specialist areas and provide their perspective on whether the invasion and subsequent crisis is a true ‘game changer’ in terms of the EU’s immediate and ongoing policy response.

WATCH our livestreamed sessions on Youtube and take a look at the conversation that went on Twitter during #CEPSlab22

What do Europeans expect from the EU now: What do recent elections and opinion polls tell us? 

Spotlight Session (in collaboration with the Young Thinkers Initiative): Peace and prosperity for all of Europe – an impossible dream?

Read the full report here 

Seeking Immunity: Europe in a Post-Covid World / 2021

In 2021, Ideas Lab took place in an unprecedented context. Together, we managed to adapt to an ever-changing environment and make this first fully digital experience a success. Over the five days, more than 100 high-level speakers discussed a wide range of topical issues: from the European Green Deal to Europe’s industrial future and the economic recovery. They debated with our 1 200 participants, without whom this experience would not have been the same.

For this 8th edition, “Seeking ImmUnity: Europe in a post-Covid World”, our team of researchers and leading experts covered five themes over five days from the European Green Deal to Europe’s industrial future and the economic recovery.

The +100 speakers included Nobel Laureates of Economics Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Spence, Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioners Elisa Ferreira and Nicolas Schmidt, ECDC Director Andrea Ammon, Indian economist Jayati Ghosh, Distinguished Fellow Kishore Mahbubani, and many more.

And for the first time at Ideas Lab, 30 Young Thinkers representing 25 different nationalities from 5 continents took part in a joint foresight exercise all week-long, where they presented scenarios on the future of Europe and discussed citizens engagement.

WATCH our livestreamed sessions on Youtube and take a look at the conversation that went on Twitter during the 5 days of #CEPSlab21

Towards a European Health Union
The pandemic and the economic crisis: A global agenda for urgent action

The future of global climate change policies
Low-carbon markets: Green and also free?

Europe’s industrial strategy

Avoiding a lost generation for Europe
Building a social safety-net for the post-Covid EU
Fiscal Stimulus: Lessons from the US to the EU?

CEPS Ideas Lab Young Thinkers Initiative – Over to Youth: New Voices for a Post-Covid Europe
Europe’s Strategic Autonomy: still a vegetarian in a world of carnivores?
EU-Med-Africa relations: a new start?

Watch Highlights video here.

Europe’s Next Stage / 2020

CEPS IDEAS LAB was held on 5-6 March 2020 and attracted over 1,000 attendees from Brussels and beyond! The 2020 Ideas Lab offered a dynamic and interactive forum to debate the von der Leyen Commission’s ambitious agenda: issues ranging from global trade wars, the Green Deal, the space economy to women in power, to name but a few of the topics we discussed. This year’s conference took place just before the coronavirus crisis engulfed Europe, which meant we had to scale back our programme and accommodate last-minute changes. Nevertheless, while taking all the necessary precautions, we were happy to host top level politicians, world renowned political analysts and speakers of exceptional quality over two days in Brussels. You can watch the highlights video here or read the detailed report of the two days of intense exchanges at Ideas Lab 2019.

Europe’s Choice / 2019

Over 1,150 people attended our 6th IDEAS LAB which focused on the European elections, populist movements across member states and key elements of the Commission’s vision. The theme was ‘Europe’s Choice’. In our view, this theme has many aspects. It implies a Europe of shared values and a Europe that is based on institutions that allow member states to enhance their own sovereignty by sharing it with others. These values and the institutions underpinning them are threatened by a rising populism, which does not accept the values and the checks and balances embodied in the European institutions and treaties. Many politicians are seeking to achieve short term political gains, putting at risk what has been painstakingly constructed over generations. This choice will play out both in the elections to the European Parliament and in the Leaders Agenda for the EU summit in Sibiu, 9 May 2019. You can find all the livestreamed sessions here.

Ahead of Ideas Lab, CEPS assessed the Juncker Commission and recommends actions for its successor in: What Comes After the Last Chance Commission: Policy Priorities for 2019-2014.

Europe – Back on Track / 2018

Perhaps the most high-profile among our flagship events is the CEPS Ideas Lab, which brings together Europe’s top decision-makers and thinkers to discuss the most pressing issues confronting the EU. A total of 1,050 participants attended the 5th and latest edition, 22-23 February 2018, at The Egg in Brussels, comprising two plenaries and 48 different breakout sessions. “Europe – Back on Track” opened with a thoughtful and entertaining keynote address given by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, while several of his colleagues contributed to the debates, together with a number of prominent MEPs and national policy-makers. The Foreign Minister of Belgium, Didier Reynders, brought the proceedings to an optimistic close alongside Lilyana Pavlova, the Bulgarian Minister for the EU Presidency. The final academic lecture was delivered by Ivan Krastev, about whom George Soros once said “few people questionthe conventional wisdom like [him]”.

Reconstructing the Union / 2017

In the span of just three years, the CEPS Ideas Lab has grown to become one of the main events on the Brussels calendar. With over 800 participants, 100 speakers, two plenaries, 33 sessions, four special evening sessions and four breakfast sessions, the 2017 Ideas Lab, which took place 23-24 February, was a resounding success.
The line-up at this cutting-edge forum featured: Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta; Mario Monti, former Commissioner and Prime Minister of Italy, Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs; Timothy Garton Ash, Professor at the University of Oxford; Liz Kendall, MP, House of Commons; Nadia Calviño, Director General, DG Budget, European Commission; Iliyana Tsanova, Deputy Managing Director, EFSI; Nathalie Tocci, Director, IAI; Philippe Lamberts, MEP; and Enrico Letta, former Prime Minister of Italy, among other influential personalities. These and many other prominent thinkers engaged in lively brainstorming discussions devoted to the most critical issues facing Europe today.

An EU Fit for Purpose / 2016

Held in partnership with the Dutch Presidency in the European Council on 25-26 February 2016, the third CEPS Ideas Lab entitled “An EU Fit for Purpose?”, was once again a huge success. With over 100 speakers, more than 700 participants and 52 nationalities represented, our flagship event, established in 2014, managed to grow without losing its distinctive atmosphere of informality and inclusiveness.
Speakers included: Ronald Plasterk, Dutch Minister of the Interior; Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President, European Commission; Ian Borg, Malta’s Secretary of State for European Affairs; Marek Belka, Governor of the Central Bank of Poland; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Member of the Danish Parliament; MEPs Sophie in ‘t Veld, György Schöpflin, Elly Schlein and Ian Duncan; the BBC’s Linda Yueh; Professors Andrew Moravcsik, Luuk van Middelaar and Ivan Krastev; Chairman of the High-Level Group on the EU Budget Mario Monti; former Commissioners Pascal Lamy, Joaquín Almunia and László Andor; George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece, and many others.

More or less Europe? / 2015

The ambitious question posed in the title invited high-level decision-makers and shapers to share their expertise on the complex challenges facing Europe in 11 different policy domains. Nearly 600 participants from 34 different countries contributed to the discussions.

Does Europe matter? / 2014

The 2014 Ideas Lab offered more than 500 participants the opportunity to engage in three sets of highly interactive debates across 10 thematic Labs. These 30 different debates were then merged, in stages, first into five so-called ‘Face-offs’ and then finally into a plenary session.