EU presidency: Belgian national and regional governments to play equal roles

From 1 January to 30 June 2024, Belgium will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Flanders will also play an important role, representing Belgium as president on matters relating to industry, youth, culture, media and fisheries sections. The fact that federal states participate in decision-making and are represented on an equal footing according to the internal division of competences is unique in Europe.

Almost every European decision has a direct or indirect impact on Flemish citizens. This growing influence results from a considerable expansion of European and Flemish competences in recent years. So the Flemish government also puts its mark on European decisions and, thus, on the EU presidency in 2024 because the division of powers in Belgium between the federal government and the regions and communities also applies at the EU level.

Cooperation agreement

During the Belgian presidency of the EU, Flanders will help to define positions in the Council in the areas for which the region is responsible. Flemish ministers can also represent Belgium in the Council. As early as 1994, the Belgian authorities drew up a cooperation agreement in which all the arrangements for determining positions and representation in the EU were laid down. This agreement will also apply during the EU presidency.

The starting point for this cooperation agreement is the constitutional principle in foro interno, in foro externo, which extends the division of powers within Belgium to foreign policy. Such a cooperation agreement, in which all governments participate and are represented on an equal footing according to the internal division of powers, is unique in Europe.

Flanders’ role

During the 2024 EU presidency, Flanders will represent Belgium as president of the Council of the EU in the fields of industry, youth, culture, media and fisheries. Flemish ministers and experts will chair the Council meetings in these areas. During the six months, they will also represent the Council in the other EU institutions and in multilateral contexts.

In addition, Flanders will also act on behalf of Belgium for the internal market, public health, transport, education, sport, fisheries and agriculture. The region will make the most of its responsibilities and competences in other areas by providing expertise, co-deciding positions and organising its own meetings and events.

International reputation

The EU presidency allows Flanders to strengthen its foreign policy and international reputation. The first six months of 2024 also offer opportunities to improve the representation of Flemish interests within the EU, to increase the EU reflex within the Flemish administration and to make EU issues more relevant to Flemish society. Numerous formal meetings and events will be organised around key themes during the EU presidency to make this possible.

There will also be informal meetings and events where Flanders can promote its assets and expertise internationally and spotlight themes and policy issues that are important for Flanders and have a clear added value for the EU and Flanders.