Best think-tanks in Europe (Part II)

Here is the 2nd part of my working guide through European think-tanks (the 1st one is available here). This series is inspired by the newest edition of the “Global Go To Think Tank Index Report” edited by Professor James G. McGann of the University of Pennsylvania. American think-tanks are easily recognised and globally-known. I am often asked, however, about European entities developing expertise on foreign and security policy and global affairs. Those listed in my guide should be the first ones to call. Part III will be published soon and Polish think-tanks will be presented broadly in a separate piece.

Bruegel – a Brussels-based, globally-known and highly influential think-tank devoted to the economic affairs of the European Union, especially of the research on the development of the Eurozone and of a profound insight into the dynamics and possible consequences of Brexit. Bruegel aims at independence and at the same time EU member states governments, corporation and various institutions can become its members. The Board of Bruegel is now chaired by Jean-Claude Trichet, one of leading French economists who used to chair i.e. the European Central Bank. Bruegel was established only in 2005 and already in 2015 was awarded the European Economic Think-Tank of the Year by the UK Prospect Magazine (also in 2016 and 2017). Bruegel is also acknowledged by the “Global Go To Think Tank Index Report” as 2nd best non-US think-tank in the world.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) – with its headquarter in London and offices in Washington, DC, Manama and Singapore, is a leading institute covering a broad range of security policy issues. Initially, it worked primarily on nuclear deterrence and arms control, now experts cover many more strategic portfolios. It delivers independent research but cooperates also with commercial and government clients through its corporate advisory team “IISS Consulting”. It is globally known for its “The Military Balance” publication and “Military Balance+” database, both dear to experts writing essays or dissertation on hard security issues. But most importantly, the IISS organises two prestigious annual conferences where military experts and defence oriented politician from all over the world gather: Manama Dialogue (organised in December) and Shangri-La Dialogue (next edition scheduled for 1-3 June 2018).

ELCANO – The Elcano Royal Institute is a Spanish think-tank located in Madrid. It was established in 2001. It covers a wide range of topics, from regional to global ones. As for the latter, it is well-known for “Elcano Global Presence Index”, annually developed by ELCANO experts, measuring the projection of global economic, military and soft power activities of 100 countries, calculated with objective data (the authors disclaim that they do not measure the power of countries as they see it as something else than projection). The first edition of the Index was published already in 1990, long before the institute was officially established. It is therefore worth underlining that Elcano is one of the best addresses for analysts searching for data and research on global affairs. I was a panellist at one of ELCANO’s seminars in 2014 and still remember their very good insight into African affairs (Sahel, Maghreb), from politics, through security, to the economy.

Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) – funded already in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, what makes it the oldest think-tank in the world. Can you imagine almost 200-year-long experience in the analysis? Wow! RUSI is an independent research institution, covering primarily defence and hard security issues – and working under the patronage of Her Majesty The Queen. It is very flexible though and, for instance, in 2014 opened the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies. It has its headquarter naturally in London, but also opened offices in Tokyo, Brussels and Nairobi. Traditionally RUSI events are held under “The RUSI Rule”, quite similar to the Chatham House one. As a notable institution, RUSI awards its own prizes: Chesney Gold Medal for “a life-long distinguished contribution to international defence and security” (Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and many other awardees), The Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History for “the best English language writing on military history”, and the Trench Gascoigne Essay Prize for “original writing on contemporary issues of national and international defence and security”.

Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) – active on the Norwegian research scene for more than half a century and was established on the model of the Chatham House (described in part I of the guide). NUPI has been recently conducting a grand project with the Polish Institute of International Affairs on the Polish-Norwegian cooperation in security issues (including energy security) that resonated broadly in both countries and beyond. It is led by a Polish expert on security issues (including Russia) Jakub M. Godzimirski, Research Professor at NUPI. The institute is linked especially with its research on security issues but covers broadly also economy and development, as well as diplomacy and global governance. The readers of this blog should definitely have a look at the results (publications, books, events) of the third portfolio. Highly recommended!

Centre for European Reform (CER) – after Brexit referendum, as a think-tank “devoted to making the European Union work better and strengthening its role in the world”, CER should – in the opinion of some – start thinking of closing down its premises. Paradoxically, in my humble opinion, the quality of their expertise keeps high and the need for their research is not at all shrinking. They have reliable, professional insights on the Brexit dynamics, they provide analysis of the UK’s bilateral relations with European countries, they expand their European security and neighbourhood portfolios. This is why they keep being acknowledged in the Prospect Think Tank Awards. CER produces high-quality podcasts (they were included in my post on international relations podcasts). It also has on board a Polish analyst – Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska (CER’s Senior Research Fellow).

Instituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) – another institute with a half-a-century history. It is based in Rome in, obviously, Palazzo Rondinini. It is an established research institution, acknowledged especially for its expertise on Mediterranean/MENA issues. IAI is another European think-tank with a broad expertise on global issues (and this agenda keeps expanding) but covers also EU politics and institutions, Eastern Europe and Eurasia, security as well as energy and climate. It is known for a very well equipped library that every researcher would wish to live in. It is also a part of the D-10 Strategy Forum (Democracy-10), a network of think-tankers and foreign policy planners. Nathalie Tocci, Federica Mogherini’s key advisor on the EU global strategy and a credible expert on EU-Turkey relations, is the Director of the IAI.

The think-tank series of blog posts includes also:

5 reasons why think-tanks are soft power tools

Best think-tanks in Europe (Part I)

Best think-tanks in Europe (Part III)

Best think-tanks in Poland (Part I)

Best think-tanks in Poland (Part II)


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