Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, has announced the key priorities for the upcoming six-month Belgian presidency of the European Council, set to begin in January 2024. Among these priorities is the fulfilment of pending Green Deal initiatives, with a focus on a circular economy and water management.

The role of presiding over the European Council rotates among EU Member States every six months. The country holding the presidency is tasked with chairing meetings at all levels of the Council’s operations. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the continuity of the EU’s work by serving as a neutral facilitator.

The Belgian presidency emphasises in its programme the importance of finding effective strategies to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal: Belgium intends to collaborate with the European Commission to ensure that the green agenda aligns with goals for economic growth, with an emphasis on the continuation of industrial activity on the European continent.

As part of its programme, Belgium has committed to finalising negotiations on key environmental proposals, including the carbon removal plan. Its overarching goal is to conclude essential legislative files promptly in order to facilitate the implementation of the objectives of the European Green Deal.

While the presidency aims to advance negotiations on critical files, such as the review of air quality rules and the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, no explicit commitment has been made to conclude these talks. With a tight timeline, negotiations must be concluded by February 2024 to allow for the finalisation and translation of the text before the last round of the European Parliament’s plenary votes in April, ahead of European Parliament elections in June.

In alignment with its commitment to environmental sustainability, the Belgian presidency will actively contribute to the transition towards digital product labelling. This initiative aims to enhance the clarity of labels, decrease costs and packaging waste, simplify management for economic operators, and foster the digitalisation of the market. A key objective of Belgium’s presidency is to complete the initial regulation in this domain, focusing specifically on the voluntary digital labelling of EU fertilising products. By championing this approach, Belgium seeks to set a precedent for broader adoption and to foster a more eco-friendly and technologically advanced landscape when it comes to sharing product information. Finally, the presidency has committed to making progress in negotiations on the Soil Monitoring Law and to fostering discussions on specific aspects of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, such as the Commission’s microplastics proposal.