Emerging infectious diseases are of international concern because of the potential for, and impact of, pandemics; however, they are difficult to predict. To identify the drivers of disease emergence, we analyzed infectious disease threat events (IDTEs) detected through epidemic intelligence collected at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) between 2008 and 2013, and compared the observed results with a 2008 ECDC foresight study of projected drivers of future IDTEs in Europe. Among 10 categories of IDTEs, foodborne and waterborne IDTEs were the most common, vaccine-preventable IDTEs caused the highest number of cases, and airborne IDTEs caused the most deaths. Observed drivers for each IDTE were sorted into three main groups: globalization and environmental drivers contributed to 61% of all IDTEs, public health system drivers contributed to 21%, and social and demographic drivers to 18%. A multiple logistic regression analysis showed that four of the top five drivers for observed IDTEs were in the globalization and environment group. In the observational study, the globalization and environment group was related to all IDTE categories, but only to five of eight categories in the foresight study. Directly targeting these drivers with public health interventions may diminish the chances of IDTE occurrence from the outset.