The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates among EU member states every six months. Each country holding the presidency plays a crucial role in shaping the agenda and guiding the decision-making process within the Council. The Spanish Presidency will be succeeded by Belgium on January 1, 2024. This transition was the main topic of the Business Breakfast prepared by the Institute for Politics and Society. Invitations were accepted by H.E. Alberto Moreno Humet, the Spanish Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and H.E. Jurgen Van Meirvenne, the Belgian Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Jaroslav Kurfürst, Director General for European Issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, also participated. The debate was moderated by Jan Macháček, Chairman of the Board at the Institute for Politics and Society.
Spanish Ambassador Moreno Humet emphasized the goals achieved during the Spanish presidency in the Council, which prioritized flexibility. The main objective was to establish common positions among EU member states rather than promoting national interests. He underscored the importance of European unity as the primary focus but also drew attention to specific accomplishments. These included reopening diplomatic relations with Latin America, forging new partnerships in the region, reaching an agreement on the Euro 7 norm, and securing a deal on the use of artificial intelligence. As the presidency approaches its conclusion, the aim is to finalize an agreement on the Migration Pact, which will coordinate rules for migrants across all EU member states.
The Belgian Ambassador Jurgen Van Meirvenne emphasized that Belgium wants to continue the work that has already been done. Belgium aims to defend the rule of law, democracy, and unity, strengthen the competitiveness of the EU, promote a global Europe, protect people and borders through the Pact on Asylum and Migration, and fight against organized crime. Last but not least, Belgium wants to create a citizen panel and include people in discussions about the direction of the European Union.
Director General Mr. Kurfürst underscored that the last week of the presidency is crucial, stating, ‘You can make it or break it.’ Despite this fact, he emphasized that Spain did a great job, overcoming challenges during the national election when all EU member states paid attention to how it would impact the EU as a whole. Similar challenges await Belgium, but he expressed confidence, stating that no country is better suited to preside over the EU than Belgium, the heart of the EU. From the point of view of the Czech Republic, the commitment remains strong in supporting the competitiveness of the EU, ensuring independence in the field of energy, bolstering the security and defence of the EU, and finally, supporting Ukraine in its struggle against Russia, as Russia is aware that unity of the EU is fragile. He added: ‘Putin wants to align with Global South and create a bipolar division on the West and the Rest.’
The most discussed topic in the EU is the enlargement. On this question in the context of Ukraine, Spanish ambassador Moreno Humet emphasized that the role of the Council of the EU is to open the negotiations with the candidate state, but for this purpose is very much needed unity. He added ‘We are going (to)? fight for it.’ The Belgian ambassador shared the same position. Mr. Kurfürst pointed out that unity poses the main challenge, with some member states, such as Hungary, having divergent views that could potentially block the start of the accession process. The primary objective is to engage in discussions with these states. However, on the other hand, Ukraine must fulfil the criteria, and then we can talk about the reform and adaption of the EU. He added: ‘Countries should be ready before joining the European Union.’
To sum up, the Belgian Presidency in the Council of the EU will not only be marked by the national election but also will witness the election to the European Parliament. This means that a new European Commission will be created, holding a strong position in the legislative process. Despite this fact, the Belgian ambassador expressed that Belgium’s position remains the same as he presented. Promoting democracy and the rule of law in the EU are the main priorities that Belgium will fight for.