A race against time for Belgian presidency


Belgium the final rotation before elections.

© European Union 2023 - Source : EP
© European Union 2023 - Source : EP

With around 140 initiatives  to be concluded before May of next year, the upcoming Belgian presidency (from January – July 2024) will be a race against time, with key files to be negotiated and the 2024 – 2029 agenda yet to be set. With Prime Minister Alexander De Croo already hosting meetings with leaders in the European institutions to mark the occasion, what will be prioritised in the thirteenth presidency for the institution’s home?

United front a precondition to success

With an incredible polarisation in European politics emerging over the past number of years, presenting a unified front will be one of the most significant challenges ahead of next year’s elections. Fractured positions on existing files such as the AI act, Platform Workers Directive and Corporate Sustainability and Due Diligence directive, added to the narrow timeframe and ongoing political campaigning, are major threats to the presidency’s priorities.

In addition, continued support for Ukraine (and the associated disagreement over accession talks, grain imports and military support), the European Union’s migration pact, the European Green Deal and other crucial areas set to be on top of the Council’s agenda over the coming months. In finding alignment with emerging and existing priorities (while concluding the above files), time is not on the Belgian’s side when it comes to initiating their own priority areas and legislative initiatives.

Focus on psychosocial risks

One certainty is the commitment of the Belgian presidency to both climate-mitigating policies and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Speaking with Euractiv, Deputy Prime Minister Petra de Sutter focused on the need for a strong social dimension to the green deal, noting that the economic and social are “two sides of one coin”. “It is necessary to address inequalities to prevent the victims of climate change from paying “twice the price”, she said, while also committing to fight back against ongoing attacks on the fight for human and civil rights.”

Additionally, a date has been set for a standalone event on our fight against the mental health epidemic. In January, the Deputy Prime Minister will be one of many high-level experts getting together to discuss Prevention of psychosocial risks, stress and burn out at work, with social partners and trade unions putting forward our positions on, amongst others, the role of psychosocial risks and job quality, prevention and detection, funding services and education and further action at a European Level. With contributions from senior ministers and Commission representatives, a clear role for social partners and academical experts, a guarantee that the Belgian presidency will focus on this crucial topic is welcome, especially when considering the constraints and pressures they face a month out from assuming their role.

Social dialogue centre stage

While it is not guaranteed that this meeting will take place, it would represent a huge commitment to social dialogue from both the Belgian presidency and the European institutions.

Given the ongoing discussions between partners, in which Eurocadres are heavily involved, we welcome the opportunity to address common concerns, and put forward the issues where social dialogue can address workers’ needs.

While details on content are not yet finalised, we will be there to put forward the voice of Europe’s professionals and managers.

Responding to “the expectations of our countries”

The work will begin in earnest, with Eurocadres closely following ongoing negotiations on files such as those mentioned above.

With uncertainty rife ahead of next year’s elections, the Spanish presidency can lend a major boost to their Belgian colleagues in concluding some of the +/- 140 open files, but the success of the Belgian presidency itself will be determined by their ability to build consensus in target areas, find agreements quickly, and help set a strong mandate for 2024 – 2029.

An unenviable task, with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo already noting the weight of expectation and need to protect “our people, our economy and our future” last week and jokingly stating “now we are getting nervous”.

With such a backlog of work, let’s hope the laughs are still there in July.