Belgium has identified and made public six priorities for its rotating presidency of the EU, which will begin on January 1, 2024, and last for six months.
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib voiced these priorities during a conference under the auspices of the Belgian think tanks TEPSA and EGMONT, dedicated to the Belgian EU Presidency.
“The Belgian presidency of the EU will focus on two areas: lawmaking and a vision of the strategic future. In the legislative field, we face time constraints before the European elections next year to propose solutions, in particular for asylum and migration, as well as to negotiate a revision of the EU’s multi-annual budget. We also have to adapt to a challenging geopolitical context with the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East,” said Lahbib.
She noted that her office will make efforts to develop the next strategic agenda of the European Union in light of the new geopolitical realities. In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the all-out war has been ongoing for over 20 months, provoking a major crisis in Europe. But the previous EU agenda was formed in 2019.
“Based on these two strategic directions, we have identified six priorities for our presidency for the next six months: strengthening the rule of law; strengthening security and defense; increasing our competitiveness; advancing the green transformation; implementing the social agenda; and addressing migration and asylum,” said Lahbib.
According to her, another important area of work of the Belgian EU Presidency will be the development of a vision for the future of the European Union in the context of its enlargement, which should allow the EU to maintain efficiency in decision-making and its ability to provide reliable protection for all Europeans.
“The Belgian presidency begins at a critical time, at a time when it is important to strengthen our unity and increase our effectiveness—this is exactly what Europeans expect from us,” the Belgian minister added.
During the same conference, Ambassador Willem Van de Voorde, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the EU, said that one of the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency will be to develop the capabilities of the European defense industry.
“We have already taken the first steps to improve the supply of ammunition to Ukraine, developed procedures for joint ordering, and expect to expand this practice over the next year. Early next year, the European Commission is to present a communication on the European Defense Investment Program, which will also be widely discussed at the level of the Presidency. This will be a new dimension that will reflect the events that are unfolding around us,” the Belgian ambassador said.
According to him, the strategic discussion of the vision of the future of the European Union will begin during the next meeting of the European Council in December this year and will continue next year to clarify the directions of EU policy and adapt budgetary spending accordingly.
“Due to the war in Ukraine and the acceleration of the enlargement process, we are facing the need to identify and realize new priorities. The EU enlargement process should be carried out correctly, in the interests of the EU, and subject to internal reforms. While the accession negotiations are structured with clusters, articles, and assessments, in terms of internal reforms, we do not yet have any of these rules. So, we will need to create them anew, think through our policy, and implement it in parallel with the enlargement process,” the diplomat said.
Until recently, the EU was dominated by the idea that the accession of new members, including Ukraine, should occur after the EU implements a complex internal reform that will change the decision-making system.
Recently, however, the EU has begun to come around to the idea that enlargement should continue without deep reform. In particular, the European Commission has stated that the EU can accept new member states with the current treaties and rules.