President von der Leyen and Prime Minister De Croo, along with their respective teams from the College of Commissioners and the Belgian Government, convened at the Egmont Palace in Brussels to discuss the priorities of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which began on January 1st and will continue until the end of June, immediately following this year’s European elections.
Following sectoral meetings between Commissioners and Ministers, a plenary meeting was held, co-chaired by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
At the end of the day, President von der Leyen and Prime Minister De Croo addressed the press. President von der Leyen outlined the areas of strong cooperation with the Presidency, including support for Ukraine, the revision of the EU budget, competitiveness, the fight against climate change, and enlargement, underlining the Belgian goals to “protect, strengthen, and prepare.”
There was a unanimous agreement on the importance of continuing EU support for Ukraine, with a focus on stabilizing financial aid and expediting the Ukraine Facility’s finalization once the European Council reaches an agreement.
Regarding competitiveness, President von der Leyen expressed confidence in making progress on the Net-Zero Industry Act and modernized economic governance rules, following the Council agreement reached in December. She also emphasized the importance of promoting strong social dialogue, highlighting its role in ensuring Europe’s long-term competitiveness and prosperity for all.
President von der Leyen announced two policy initiatives for 2024: an initiative on 2040 climate targets following the EU’s success in global renewable and energy efficiency targets at COP28 and a roadmap for policy reviews to prepare for an enlarged Union, emphasizing the need to improve before expanding.
The day’s activities concluded with a concert at Brussels’s Centre for Fine Arts (Bozar), attended by the King and Queen of the Belgians. This event provided an opportunity to pay tribute to former Commission President Jacques Delors, the last Honorary Citizen of Europe, who passed away on December 27.
President von der Leyen mentioned that it was in the same hall where President Delors had delivered his legacy speech 30 years ago, underscoring the profound impact of his beliefs in peace, mutual respect, inter-nation dialogue, solidarity, and the fair distribution of wealth among Europeans. She stressed Delors’ unwavering trust in Europe’s democratic values and traditions, concluding that we are most powerful when acting together as Europeans, united behind a common purpose.