The Belgian EU Presidency, starting on the 1st of January 2024, will be particularly important as it will steer the debates on the European Council’s Strategic Agenda and lead up to the European Parliament elections in June. Besides climate change, economic growth, and social cohesion, the Presidency will also need to deal with the complex geopolitical environment.

“Belgium has the European Union in its DNA. If there is one country that embodies the diversity and the dynamism of the European Union today, I think it is Belgium,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said when presenting the priorities of the EU Presidency. He acknowledged the challenges the Union is facing after a difficult period characterised by the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic and energy crisis, and the return of war.

With the elections planned for June 2024 in both the European Union and Belgium, the Presidency will focus on strengthening citizen engagement with the EU – an important ideal which the EU often fails to translate into practice. Special focus will be given to those aged 16 and over, who are allowed to vote in Belgium at the European elections in June.

Belgium’s 2024 priorities will be the promotion of the rule of law and democracy; strengthening economic competitiveness; pursuing the green transition; reinforcing the social agenda; protecting borders and people; and promoting a global Europe. The themes will be worked on in tandem with a continued commitment to Ukraine, at a time when the Middle East has diverted international attention away from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

With Hungary taking over the EU Presidency from Belgium in July 2024, Alexander De Croo rejected any notion that there will be challenges in the Presidency transition, adding that the Hungarian Presidency will be like any other. “We will have hearings on Article 7 during our presidency,” Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib said, referencing the mechanism which was opened against Hungary and could see their membership rights suspended. “That is not a problem, we will continue our job,” she stressed.

Belgium even prepared a special Spotify list: “Listen to our Spotify playlist and experience the best of the musical side of the Belgian presidency. Jacques Brel, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, The Subs, Angèle: Belgium is bursting with musical talent. So it was difficult to select 58 songs from all that talent. But: we did it! The Songs from Belgium playlist is a reflection of our diverse society,” the Presidency’s website says.