The Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union has started
The College of Commissioners and its counterparts from the Belgian Government met in the Egmont Palace in Brussels to discuss the priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU that started on 1 January and will run until the end of June.
After Commissioners and Ministers met in sectoral meetings, they met for a plenary meeting that was co-chaired by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo.
President von der Leyen and Prime Minister De Croo addressed journalists at the end of the day. Highlighting the Belgian aims to “protect, strengthen, and prepare”, President von der Leyen laid out the work strands for strong cooperation with the Presidency, namely support for Ukraine, the revision of the EU budget, competitiveness, the fight against climate change, and enlargement.
There was robust agreement on the importance of continuing the EU’s support to Ukraine. The President emphasised the need of stabilising financial aid to Ukraine and the Belgian Presidency’s key task to finalise the Ukraine Facility as quickly as possible after an agreement is reached in the European Council.
On the wide issue of competitiveness, President von der Leyen expressed her confidence on making progress on the Net-Zero Industry Act, as well as on the modernised rules on economic governance, following the Council agreement reached at the end of December.
The President also advocated for promoting strong social dialogue. “First, because long-term competitiveness relies first and foremost on Europe’s main talent : and that is the people and their skills. Second, because competitiveness is a tool to ensure prosperity, and this is prosperity for all,” she said, also underlining her expectations for the upcoming Val Duchesse Summit of social partners, which she announced in her State of the Union Address last year.
The Commission President took the occasion to highlight two policy announcements for 2024. She said the Commission would come forward with an initiative on 2040 climate targets, following the EU’s success in bringing the world together in setting new global targets on renewables and energy efficiency at the COP28.
Likewise, the President confirmed the Commission would put forward a roadmap for policy reviews in the framework of preparing for an enlarged Union, saying “before we get bigger, we have to get better”.