Belgium's EU presidency achieves 'one agreement per working day'

With member states giving the green light to a duty-of-care law for companies, the Belgian EU presidency on Friday added another last-minute agreement to its record. Since the beginning of January, there has been "an average of one agreement per working day", a diplomatic source said on Friday evening.

When Belgium took over the presidency of the EU Council at the beginning of this year, its mission was to broker agreements on as many of the 100 or so remaining draft laws as possible before the European elections on 6-9 June.

Belgium decided to work on around 60 priority dossiers, partly because the timeframe was even tighter in reality. The European Parliament, which in most cases also has a say, will hold its last plenary session at the end of April.

MEPs had previously indicated that 9 February was the deadline for reaching compromises that could still be approved in April. But there was a loophole that allowed provisional agreements to be negotiated until 15 March, after which they could be formally approved through a corrigendum procedure at the first regular plenary session of the new Parliament in September.

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EU presidency: Belgium steps up efforts to wrap up deals before EU elections in June
It's a busy time for the diplomats and officials involved in the Belgian EU presidency. They are shuttling back and forth between Strasbourg and Brussels. Their mission is to reach political agreements with the European Parliament that can be approved before the European elections, reports VRT NWS.

The 15 March deadline has now passed. In the 10 weeks since 1 January, the presidency has concluded or finalised some 47 agreements with MEPs, ranging from the new migration pact to rules on packaging waste, green technology production, consumers' right to redress, better air quality and new rules on national budgets.

Continuing Spain's work

The Spanish presidency had already reached a number of compromises with the Parliament at the end of last year, and in these cases Belgium only had to worry about final approval in the Council. But this sometimes took more work than expected. For example, on the Duty of Care Act and earlier this week on working conditions for platform workers, Belgian diplomacy had to pull out all the stops to get enough member states behind these compromises.

The Belgian presidency also concluded a number of agreements on issues that did not involve the Parliament and only required the green light from member states. These included the new sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine and the proposal to use the profits from Russia's frozen assets in Europe for the benefit of Ukraine.

In the coming weeks, the Belgian presidency will continue to negotiate with MEPs, for example on trade measures for Ukraine. This work will have to be continued by the incoming Hungarian presidency in the second half of the year and by the new Parliament formed after the elections.


Belgian PM Alexander De Croo addressing MEPs, in January 2024, to present the priorities of Belgium’s presidency © PHOTO FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

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