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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » October 29, 2010
Belgium in Poland
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Belgian Priorities for EU Presidency
October 29, 2010   
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Belgium’s 12th turn at the rotating presidency of the European Union will differ in many respects from previous periods at the helm because it will take place at a time that will be crucial in terms of introducing changes laid out in the Lisbon Treaty.

In recent months, as the EU struggled with the financial crisis that hit some member states, especially Greece, it became evident that the process of European integration requires further decisions. At the same time, reluctance and passivity towards European issues on the part of citizens of many EU countries reached the highest level in decades. And the role of a united Europe in the international arena diminished visibly, something which in the view of many EU politicians is reflected in the de facto failure of the climate summit in Copenhagen.

During its presidency, Belgium plans to focus on five priority groups of problems. The first and most important one is the EU’s social and economic situation, in particular combating the effects of the crisis through financial and economic reforms. An active battle against unemployment, the introduction of auditing practices, the stabilization of the eurozone and budget discipline will be of crucial importance in this respect. This will be coupled with measures designed to stimulate innovation in the economy and to change the education system so that it better reflects the needs of the economy.

Another priority are issues associated with environmental protection and climate policy, especially further consistent efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

The third group of priority problems comprises security issues, the judiciary and asylum policy. Belgium has promised to take measures to implement the Stockholm Program, which defines the framework for EU police and customs cooperation, criminal and civil law coordination, asylum, migration and visa policy. Public opinion surveys show that EU citizens expect fast and firm measures to be taken in this area. 2010 is a year of determined battle against poverty and social exclusion across the EU. In connection with this process, social issues are to make up the fourth group of priorities. The fifth priority area will be the external dimension of the united Europe. EU leaders want the EU to remain the most important regional organization in the world. But in order to achieve this goal, the EU has to speak with one voice, something which it has failed to do on many occasions in the past. The formation of the EU’s common diplomatic service, a process which is now underway in line with the principles laid down by the Treaty of Lisbon, aims to support this goal.

Finally, an issue which has been tackled by every EU presidency for years is the further enlargement of the EU. The Belgian presidency coincides with the final rounds of the negotiation process with Croatia. The EU is also likely to start negotiations with Iceland in this six-month period. Belgian politicians do not expect much progress in negotiations with Turkey, but think that progress is possible in talks with Macedonia.

International trade is a separate issue. Belgium believes that the main task for the EU in coming months will be to carry out agreements signed at the WTO summit in Doha. However, independent talks between the EU and nations interested in intensifying their trade with Europe, such as Canada, India and countries located in Africa and in the Andean, Caribbean and Pacific regions, are not ruled out.
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