Thursday 1 July 2010

Belgium Assumes the Council Presidency

Today Belgium takes over the rotating Council Presidency from Spain. The rotating presidency chairs the Council committees in the different policy areas (justice and home affairs, economy and finance, etc.) apart from the foreign affairs committee, which is chaired by the High Representative for CFSP, Baroness Ashton. What will make this presidency interesting is the fact that there isn't yet a federal government in Belgium since last month's elections. In the elections the Flemish nationalists came first, and the French speaking Socialists second. Given that they're not exactly ideological allies, it will probably take several months before they can form a coalition. Like the Czech presidency, the Belgian presidency will have a caretaker government run the presidency.

It will be interesting to see how much the European Council President, Van Rompuy (a former Belgian Prime Minister), will fill the void left by the stalled federal government. The President's Belgian roots might make it easier for the caretaker government to let this be "Van Rompuy's Presidency". Whether this could lead to a more permanent empowerment of the E.Council presidency is harder to say - even a country as pro-integration as Belgium will want to preserve the role of the rotating presidency to a large degree, and Poland has big plans for its presidency in 2011, so it's likely that any inroads that Van Rompuy makes would be quickly recaptured by an assertive member state government with a vision.

The website of the Belgian presidency is here.


  1. It is a telling sign of Polish pretensions that they descended on Brussels to trumpet their 2011 EU Council presidency, before Belgium even opened its presidency website for the latter half of 2010.

    Actually, we are supposed to have smoothly working presidency trios and less idiosyncratic six month variations on nationalistic themes.

    And, not to forget, Belgium has just started the second leg of the eutrio, with Hungary still to come - before the next trio (including Poland) takes over from July 2011.

  2. In some ways it's understandable that the newer member states want to make a bigger impact with their rotating presidencies - and it's a positive sign that Poland wants to increase co-operation at a European level and to be an important player in the process.

    But it would be better for it to be part of an ongoing interaction in Council than 6 month bursts of nationally-tinted presidencies. (I do think that the rotating presidency is a good thing to keep member state governments more interested and engaged that some might be, and to give a firmer sense of shared ownership).