Malta throws its weight behind Belgian EU Presidency

Belgium took over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on 1st January, declaring six main priorities. The Belgian Presidency’s programme was discussed by MEPs during this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

Malta welcomes the priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, noting that they touch upon a few of the most pressing challenges the Union is facing today, a spokesperson for the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade told The Journal.

Belgium took over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council from Spain on 1st January. With ‘Protect. Strengthen. Prepare.’ as its motto, the Presidency has declared six main priorities:

1. Defending rule of law, democracy, and unity

2. Strengthening the EU’s competitiveness

3. Pursuing a green and just transition

4. Reinforcing the EU’s social and health agenda

5. Protecting people and borders

6. Promoting a global Europe

This is the 13th time Belgium, one of the founding members of the European Union, has held the bloc’s Presidency, the last time being in 2010. It took over from Spain, which reached agreements on major files such as the Pact on Migration and Asylum and the Artificial Intelligence Act.

“2024 will be a crucial year, where our democracies and liberties will be put to the test,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, told the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg before MEPs discussed the programme of his country’s Council Presidency – the last one during the EP’s current legislature. “If 2024 brings us ‘America first’ again, it will be more than ever ‘Europe on its own’,” he warned, urging European legislators to maintain solidarity with Ukraine. He also said that the EU has to do everything it can to put an end to the suffering in Israel and Palestine.

Prime Minister Alexander de Croo at the European Parliament’s plenary session during the presentation of the programme of activities of the Belgian Presidency (Photo: EP)

Addressing a press conference with EP President Roberta Metsola after the debate, he voiced his commitment towards building a stronger Europe for our next generations. “While getting bigger, we need to get better,” he said. “Citizens expect more from us.”

Meanwhile, in plenary, the leader of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Iratxe García Pérez, called for the European Pillar of Social Rights to contain social rights such as the minimum wage, fair pay, and good working conditions. She called upon the Belgian Presidency to respect the provisional agreement that was reached last month between negotiators from Parliament and Council on a bill to improve the working conditions of persons performing platform work.

Meanwhile, speaking with The Journal, the Maltese government spokesperson expressed the country’s support for a number of Belgian EU Presidency priorities, including the strengthening of relations with EU partners globally, the focus on solidarity in the European Union’s migration and asylum policy, and its perspective on the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The Maltese government also appreciates the Belgian Presidency’s commitment to strengthening the EU’s resilience and autonomy, and recognising the importance of strong partnerships to support the UN in upholding core values and principles.

The Belgian Presidency will be succeeded by Hungary, which will take up the Presidency on 1st July.

Main photo: Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo speaking to the Press at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Sandro Mangion)

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