On Tuesday, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) engaged in a discussion about Belgium’s Council Presidency program, initiated on January 1, with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola expressed the Parliament’s commitment to meeting citizens’ expectations in the upcoming European elections from June 6-9, aiming to create a Europe that is fairer, more competitive, and digitally advanced.
Prime Minister De Croo emphasized 2024 as a pivotal year for democracy and freedom, particularly in light of the European and U.S. presidential elections. He highlighted the potential challenges if ‘America first’ policies resurface, and stressed the need for Europe to stand independently. De Croo urged MEPs to continue supporting Ukraine, both in solidarity and militarily, emphasizing its vital significance for Europe.
De Croo advocated for the opening of European capital markets to stimulate innovation and called for an Industrial Deal to complement the Green Deal. He criticized the European approach of often resorting to punitive measures, in contrast to the more incentive-based climate policies of China and the U.S.
Regarding migration, De Croo suggested a more coordinated foreign policy
As part of the solution, and proposed forming partnerships with third countries to enhance stability.
The Prime Minister also addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling for efforts to alleviate suffering, including establishing humanitarian corridors in Gaza, assisting Israel in freeing hostages, and combating the Hamas terrorist organization.
Maroš Šefčovič, speaking for the Commission, highlighted the significance of the June European elections in shaping the EU’s future. He underscored the need to maintain progress on key legislative areas like competitiveness, economic governance, and green transition. Šefčovič mentioned the Commission’s plans to evaluate the 2040 climate target in February and introduce a strategy in March for better protection against climate impacts. He concluded that unwavering support for Ukraine and finding a long-term solution in the Middle East remain top EU priorities.
Political group representatives also spoke. Benoît Lutgen (EPP, BE) criticized the lack of focus on farmers and European population protection. Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES) advocated for social rights, including fair wages and working conditions, and urged the Belgian presidency to honor the Platform Work Directive agreement. Hilde Vautmans (Renew, BE) called for deeper EU integration before further enlargement, suggesting the creation of a European army and an EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE) argued for continuous and intensified efforts against climate change.
Geert Bourgeois (ECR, BE) supported the industrial deal proposal and called for increased funding for innovation and green and digital transitions. Gerolf Annemans (ID, BE) criticized the Belgian Presidency’s federalist agenda. Marc Botenga (The Left, BE) warned against reintroducing strict budgetary rules, foreseeing further social crisis.