With just a year to go until the Belgian EU Presidency, the country's foreign minister denounced the functioning of the Union, which he said is increasingly governed by an "executive board of big countries".
Speaking on Monday (20 April) at the opening of an annual diplomatic conference in Brussels, Karel de Gucht said Belgium would make full use of its presidency in the second half of 2010 to re-establish the EU institutional balance, which he said was in "danger".
"It is absolutely unacceptable that small groups of member states put in danger the normal institutional process," de Gucht said. "Belgium has the duty of trying as quickly as possible to re-establish the institutional balance."
De Gucht lashed at the recent summitry, organised in haste to respond to different challenges.
"The number of formal European Council meetings has been outnumbered recently by all kind of 'ad hoc' meetings, organised in haste and often with a deplorable timing," he said.
"The London G20 meeting has first been prepared in Berlin by a small group of [EU] member countries, that is, those of them who are G20 members. The General Affairs Council was barely consulted, in fact only post factum. However, the G20 is elaborating a new financial architecture which will have a significant impact on Europe and its member states. Therefore it is unacceptable that Europe doesn't play fully its role in this field," De Gucht stated.
The Belgian foreign minister set out his country's EU presidency ambitions. He said the onus would be on restoring the proper functioning of the EU institutions, "in which the utmost respect of the Community method occupies a primary position".
He indirectly criticised the European Commission, hinting that the EU executive was not making full use of its right to initiative.
De Gucht also mentioned energy security as a priority, adding that as Belgium had achieved a substantial degree of energy-source diversification, it could play the role of an "honest broker" in the EU framework in this field.
On enlargement, De Gucht warned that the enforcement of the Lisbon Treaty was not the only condition for a new wave of accessions. He said his personal opinion was "much more cautious" than the views of countries that are pushing for further EU enlargement.