In spite of the fact that it was its 12th Presidency, Belgium was facing a new European Union after the Lisbon treaty came into effect. True to its tradition, Belgium did its utmost to work smoothly with the new institutions. A piece written by the Belgian Ambassador for Diplomacy & Trade.
During our presidency, we were able to reach an agreement on supervision of the financial sector, which should protect us from the type of economic crisis we have encountered recently. Economic governance has made progress. An agreement has been reached on the budget for 2011. An important trade agreement with South Korea has been concluded. Last but not least, more than forty pieces of legislations have been concluded between the European Parliament and the Council. We were determined to respect the letter and the spirit of the Lisbon treaty in order to move toward an ever closer European cooperation.
To reach that goal, we applied two main principles. First, we avoided putting ourselves at the forefront. We organized our program, with its five priorities, in line with the European agenda, the Commission agenda, the trio program and the directives given by the Heads of State and governments at the level of the European Council. We tried to be as inclusive as possible by working closely with the European Parliament, with the Permanent President of the European Council, with the Commission, with the High representative and, of course, with all the member States.
We very much focused on the cooperation with the European parliament, which has seen its prerogatives reinforced by the Lisbon treaty. This method was effective as most of the agreements we reached were voted by a large majority. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the rotating Presidency of the Council no longer has a role to play in external representation of the EU in multilateral fora.
However, the Belgian Council Presidency took place in a transition period with the European External Action Service in its infancy and the EU Delegations abroad not yet in a position to assume all the tasks that effective external representation demands. At the request of High Representative Ashton, Belgian experts, diplomats and politicians have therefore on several occasions intervened on her behalf in international settings, ready to take a step back as soon as the High Representative was of the opinion that she and her team could take over.
We have moreover introduced practical arrangements that, if continued, will allow the EU Delegations to be fully functional in the near future. We are grateful and proud of the many congratulatory remarks on the conduct of the Belgian Council Presidency. According to President Van Rompuy, Belgium, and in particular its diplomats, assured the Presidency in an exemplary fashion.
Commission President Barroso qualified the Belgian Council Presidency in the second half of 2010 as ‘grand and beautiful’. I hope and believe that the Hungarian Council Presidency will build upon the lessons learned from the Belgian Council Presidency and will be able to put the crown on our trio cooperation by proving to be as successful as Spain and Belgium in advancing the European agenda. <