As Belgium takes on the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, succeeding Spain and preceding Hungary, it assumes a pivotal role in shaping the agenda and trajectory of the Union in such challenging times. Throughout the current semester – which will end on June 30th, 2024 – the country will lead the Union towards the upcoming European elections scheduled from June 6th to 9th while also overseeing the transition to the Strategic Agenda 2024-2029, expected to be adopted in June.

Under the guiding slogan “Protect, strengthen, prepare,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has embraced the challenges of Belgium’s 13th Presidency, fully conscious of the evolving demands of European citizens. Such awareness is heightened in the aftermath of three significant events that have profoundly influenced the present era: the Russian attack on Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. “Our citizens are looking for certainty, our citizens are looking for perspective – and for that certainty and that perspective, they are looking at the European Union”, De Croo emphasised during the kick-off event held on December 8th, marking these needs as the primary guiding principle in Belgium’s agenda.

The Presidency has delineated six critical priorities for its programme, reaffirming Belgium’s dedication to confronting pressing challenges and bolstering the EU’s resilience and sustainability. These priorities encompass defending democracy and unity by empowering citizens and supporting aspiring member states; strengthening EU competitiveness by fostering fair conditions for businesses and innovation; advancing a green transition with a focal point on energy and climate action in the context of the Green Deal; strengthening the social agenda through initiatives promoting gender equality and accessible healthcare; safeguarding borders and fighting organised crime and terrorism; and advocating for a global Europe, protecting EU interests and values.

One of the programme’s primary objectives is to empower and enhance the inclusion of citizens, mainly focusing on the youth demographic. Belgium will prioritise efforts to enrich the European education landscape, elevate the quality of education, facilitate lifelong learning, and encourage mobility and sports engagement. Democratic principles will be promoted, among others, by fostering media freedom and pluralism, facilitating the digitalisation of cultural and creative sectors in the context of the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan (MAAP), and exploring the interconnections among culture, heritage, and the European identity. Furthermore, the Belgian Presidency has declared itself committed to implementing the EU Work Plan for Culture 2023-2026 and to finalising any remaining work on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).

Despite the criticism raised by several observers who highlighted some concerns – mostly related to a list of pending issues – Belgium’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union remains steady in its commitment to navigate these challenges, aiming to overcome obstacles, foster unity, and advance the shared goals of prosperity, stability, and progress within the European Union.

CUMEDIAE enthusiastically shares the Presidency’s values and vision on culture and is thrilled to witness its ambitious agenda. The team looks forward to the opportunities arising from the journey that Belgium has embarked on, ready to continue enriching Europe’s cultural landscape and promoting diversity and creativity.