Belgium, Hungary set EU presidency priorities

Spain, Belgium and Hungary have agreed a joint 18-month programme, beginning in January 2010, for their ‘trio’ of EU presidencies. The three countries pledged continuity for their stint at the EU helm, which is the first such ‘presidency trio’ to take place under the EU’s revamped institutions. EURACTIV France reports.

Spain, Belgium and Hungary want to set a precedent and lead by example.

The three countries are the first to work under the rules of the EU’s new Lisbon Treaty and will thus have the responsibility to define a working method to ensure a smooth transition without neglecting the treaty’s political advances.

The joint programme was presented at a press conference on 21 January at the French representation of the European Commission in Paris. 

The programme, from January 2010 to June 2011, was adopted in December last year at the General Affairs Council, but coordination efforts were already apparent in 2008, when a common logo was officially presented (EURACTIV 30/10/09).

The long-term goals identified by the trio largely echo the strategic priorities unveiled by the Spanish Presidency: the ‘EU 2020’ strategy for growth and jobs – which is to replace the Lisbon Agenda – financial supervision, the social agenda, energy and climate change, and strengthening the EU’s external action (EURACTIV 09/12/09).

Francisco Villar, Spain’s ambassador to Paris, accepted that the role of the rotating presidency had changed under the Lisbon Treaty. “Our role is to provide impetus to each dedicated Council, not necessarily to stabilise it, as it is the case of the permanent presidency,” he said. “The answer must be given in practice, not in the text,” he added.

European diplomacy 

Preparations for the UN climate change summit in Mexico at the end of 2010 are among the Belgian Presidency’s top priorities (EURACTIV 08/01/10).

This next major step on the international climate agenda coincides with the last month of Belgium’s presidency, giving the small country a key role in representing the EU during the negotiations.

“We want to uphold cohesion at European level in order to make the EU more audible in future international negotiations,” said Baudouin de la Kethulle de Ryhove, Belgian ambassador to France.

Belgium will also focus on internal and external security issues, including the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), energy security and implementation of the Stockholm Programme, which was adopted by EU governments on 11 December last year. Belgian Herman Van Rompuy’s presence as permanent president of the European Council will certainly give his country a stronger weight in conducting the EU’s external relations.

A highly-political Hungarian agenda

Meanwhile “Hungary wants a political presidency, as Europe is above all a political project,” according to Hungarian Ambassador to France László Nikicser. For its first presidency, Budapest wants to leave its mark by pushing a more political agenda, and to take advantage as a small country. “We need to develop new common policies [such as climate, energy or innovation], and then to see how we can fund them, not vice-versa,” he said.

Hungary also wants to accelerate EU accession negotiations with Croatia and the Western Balkans, strengthen the Eastern Partnership and develop a genuine Danube Strategy (EURACTIV 21/01/10).

Hungary will submit details of its programme no later than spring 2010 and establish a schedule by May 2010. 

The EU's Lisbon Treaty, eight years in the making, came into force across the bloc's 27 member states on 1 December 2009 (EURACTIV 01/12/09).

EU leaders believe the Lisbon Treaty will rejuvenate the decision-making apparatus of the EU institutions, making the functioning of the 27-member Union more efficient and democratic.

The new treaty introduces the new 'top jobs' of permanent president of the Council to chair EU summit meetings for a two-and-a-half year term, and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who is also vice-president of the European Commission.

At a summit on 20 November, EU heads of state and government chose Belgian Herman Van Rompuy as EU president and Briton Catherine Ashton as high representative (EURACTIV 20/11/09). 

  • 1 July 2010: Belgium assumes EU's rotating presidency.
  • 1 Jan. 2011: Hungary assumes EU's rotating presidency.
  • 1 July 2011-31 Dec. 2012: Poland, Denmark and Cyprus to hold next EU 'trio' of presidencies. 

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