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As President of the Council, Belgium will lead the European agenda and promote cooperation among the Member States. The aim will be to strengthen the European Union and make progress in several areas, such as climate change, economic growth and social cohesion. Belgium will then act as a neutral mediator to lead the legislative work and seek compromises among the EU Member States.
Several high-level summits and conferences will take place during the Belgian Presidency, during which important decisions will be made about the future of the European Union. Belgium will work closely with the other EU Member States and institutions, such as the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Did you know?
The Council is one of the key institutions which sets the direction of the EU and drives the legislative process. The Council consists of the competent ministers of the 27 Member States of the European Union and is presided over alternately by one of the Member States for a period of six months.
In order to ensure the continuity of the EU agenda and the work of the Council, the rotating presidencies work together in a group of three in a so-called trio presidency. For example, Belgium will cooperate with Spain and Hungary. The Spanish Presidency will precede the Belgian Presidency. The Hungarian Presidency will commence after the Belgian presidency from July to December 2024.
Presidents of the Council meetings
The Council is a single legal entity but meets in 10 different "configurations" depending on the subject being discussed. There are also subdivisions within these 10 configurations. Representatives of each Member State, at the level of Minister or Secretary of State, attend Council meetings. During the Justice and Home Affairs Council, for example, legal issues are discussed among the 27 Justice Ministers, among other things.
The 1994 "Cooperation Agreement between the Federal State, Communities and Regions, regarding the representation of the Kingdom of Belgium in the Council of Ministers of the European Union" stipulates who will preside over the Council configuration for Belgium. Based on the rotation established by the communities and regions, we will know the Presidents of the various Council meetings during the Belgian Presidency.
Belgium's Permanent Representation (PR) to the EU plays an essential role in the preparation of Council meetings. In fact, it acts as a bridge between the Belgian authorities and the European institutions. The PR presides over the Council working groups and committees which prepare ministerial decisions. This means organising meetings, preparing files and seeking compromises among the EU Member States.
Culture and public participation
The Belgian Presidency will also focus on culture and public participation for informing and raising awareness of European policies among citizens and civil society. It will be the communities which will further highlight the cultural component of the Presidency through project calls, and by using a "label" other activities will also be able to promote the Presidency.
Particular attention will be paid to young people between the ages of 16 and 18, who will have the opportunity to vote in the European elections for the first time.
The federal government will provide a joint budget of €100 million to assume the Presidency. By doing so, it is explicitly opting for the principle of restraint.
The budgetary framework will be a crucial pillar for the successful realisation of the Belgian Presidency and the creation of an active and engaged European community. On 28 October 2022, acting on the proposal of Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, the Council of Ministers approved the working framework and budget estimate for the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2024. Among other things, the Council of Ministers approved the consultation mechanism under the Presidency and the creation of an interdepartmental provision of 100 million euros for 2023 and 2024. This provision includes a number of horizontal headings (including staff augmentation and operating expenses) and the organisation of quite a few events.
Belgium wants to concentrate on the core tasks of a rotating Presidency and is therefore deliberately opting for restraint. For example, the Federal Council of Ministers have designated the Egmont conference centre as the preferential venue for events, and it was decided that no federal gifts will be offered within the Presidential budget.
Did you know?
The Consultative Committee is a crucial consultation mechanism between the various governments in Belgium. The composition of the committee is based on double parity, with equal representation of Dutch and French speakers, as well as members of both the federal government and the governments of the communities and regions. This ensures the balanced and inclusive representation of all the country's governments in key decisions and consultations. Accordingly, the Consultative Committee plays a central role in promoting cooperation and coordination between the different levels of governance in Belgium.
Political support for the work of the Presidency will be provided by the EU2024 Steering Committee. The composition of this group mirrors that of the Consultative Committee. The Steering Committee is convened regularly to take stock or decide on issues which are not clarified at the working group level. Working groups also include both federal and federated entities.
At the administrative level, work is handled by the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Our FPS accordingly set up a "Task Force EU2024" in September 2021, coordinating work in close consultation with all the entities involved.
Belgium will assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the 13th time in 2024. The last time our country had to assume the Presidency was in 2010.
Tasks of our FPS
As during the last Belgian Presidency of the Council, which took place in 2010, the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation will assume certain cross-cutting services for the informal meetings of ministers (so-called "informal Councils"). For example, it will include:
- coordination of the consultation mechanism by the EU2024 Task Force,
- communications on behalf of the Presidency (such as managing the website and social media channels),
- liaison officers accompanying delegations,
- live streaming,
- visibility materials (such as flags, etc.).
The FPS Foreign Affairs, as coordinator, also initiated the definition of the working framework with regard to sustainability, sponsorship and security. To this end, we work closely with federal and federated partners.