‘Protect. Strengthen. Prepare’: Belgium takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU

Jan 08, 2024

Good governance

Following the conclusion of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union on December 31, 2023, Belgium took the helm from January 1 to June 30, 2024, under the motto ‘Protect. Strengthen. Prepare.’ Building on Spanish initiatives, Belgium aims to enhance democracy and address teleworking concerns, ensuring a seamless transition in EU leadership and policy focus.

Following a successful term under the Spanish Presidency, the European Union is poised for continuity and progress as Belgium assumes the role for the first half of 2024. The Spanish Presidency, the first in a trio followed by Belgium and Hungary, laid essential groundwork for key initiatives, setting the stage for collaborative efforts across member states. Belgium, in its thirteenth term as the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, faces a pivotal moment. The EU confronts a multitude of challenges, from Russian aggression in Ukraine to the persistent pandemic, energy crises, disinformation, climate events, and renewed conflicts in the Middle East.

The Belgian Presidency is resolute in its commitment to better protect European citizens, strengthen cooperation, and pave the way for a shared future. With a focus on six key thematic areas, special attention is given to sustaining unwavering support for Ukraine. Defending the core values of democracy, the rule of law, and individual freedoms remains central to the agenda. 

The Presidency emphasises citizen empowerment, with a particular focus on youth participation

As the current institutional cycle concludes, the Belgian Presidency supports a seamless transition to the next one. It actively contributes to adopting the Strategic Agenda 2024-2029 and initiates discussions on the future of the European Union. ALDA, as a steadfast advocate for local democracy, active citizenship, and European cooperation, aligns its mission with the objectives of the Presidency. With over 300 members from 45 countries, including local authorities, associations, and civil society organisations, ALDA serves as a dynamic network contributing to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030

In the face of evolving geopolitical realities, the Presidency prioritises long-term competitiveness and industrial policies. Efforts are directed towards strengthening the EU’s internal market, completing the capital markets union and the energy union, and enhancing economic security. Also, a robust social and health agenda is pursued, building on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Presidency aims to create a more inclusive, gender-equal, and fair European society, focusing on social dialogue, fair labour mobility, mental health, and sustainable social protection.

The Presidency places a spotlight on addressing legislative files associated with the new European pact on migration and asylum. By reinforcing trust between Member States and offering humane and effective migration management, the Pact seeks to improve legal pathways to the EU. The Presidency also underscores the importance of decisive and holistic action to address climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The energy and climate transition are central to reducing vulnerabilities, promoting circular economy practices, and ensuring a sustainable water management system.

As the Presidency navigates the challenges of our time, it remains dedicated to fostering unity, defending democratic principles, and preparing the EU for a resilient and inclusive future. The journey unfolds with a clear focus on the well-being of European citizens and a commitment to upholding the values that define the European Union.

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