Opportunities and threats facing the European Union

From January ۱ ۲۰۲۴ the periodic presidency of the European Union was transferred to Belgium. Belgiums presidency of the Union begins at a time when Europe is facing the consequences of events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy crisis COVID-۱۹ climate change and the recent developments in the Middle East and the Gaza war and must overcome the challenges ahead.
6 January 2024
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Reza Haghigi

From January 1, 2024, the periodic presidency of the European Union was transferred to Belgium. Belgium's presidency of the Union begins at a time when Europe is facing the consequences of events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy crisis, COVID-19, climate change, and the recent developments in the Middle East and the Gaza war, and must overcome the challenges ahead. For the six months of its presidency, Brussels has set priorities on the agenda, which include a range of different issues, including security, defense, immigration, the rule of law and democracy, economy, social policies, employment, and health, environment (Green Europe) and the future of the European Union.

During the Belgian Presidency of the Union, the five-year term of the European Parliament will end, and parliamentary elections will be held from June 6 to 9, 2024. The Union has programs on the agenda that the parliament must approve, so Belgium will come to an end to issues such as the European agreement on migration and asylum, the action plan for democracy in Europe, the net-zero industry act in the Green Agreement, and the reform of the electricity consumption market before the end of the current parliamentary period. Also, the European Union intends to develop its 5-year strategic document from 2024 to 2029, in which the role of the periodic presidency is prominent. The election of the new presidents of the European Council and the European Commission after holding the parliamentary elections is also of particular importance, and the periodic presidency will cooperate in its implementation.

According to the regulations, Belgium, as the periodic president, will manage the meetings of the Council of Ministers in the sectors of agriculture and fisheries, energy, communications, environment, and issues related to climate change, transportation, and economy, and only in the three areas of foreign affairs, defense issues and development related issues, the Council of Ministers, chaired by Mr. Borrell, High Representative of Foreign and Security Policy of the Union meets, set the meeting.

Belgium has defined six topics or subject areas for its presidency, which include: 1. Defense of law, democracy, and unity; 2. Strengthening competitiveness; 3. Green Europe; 4. Strengthening social services and health; 5. Protection of people and borders; and 6. Promotion of global Europe.

Brussels has defined addressing policies related to media freedom and pluralism and paying attention to the participation and education of young people as the first priority. The contextualization in order to create equal competitive conditions for the benefit of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and give importance to new technologies such as artificial intelligence is realized in the form of a program to strengthen competitiveness and planning to achieve zero emission of greenhouse gases in the outlook 2050 within the frame of third priority. In the field of health, one of Belgium's concerns is the security of drug supply and people's access to affordable drugs and medical necessities, which the relevant regulations in the Union should be in line with its realization.

For the last two priorities, external threats and opportunities should be considered. Russia's attack on Ukraine and the continuation of the war highlighted the importance of two issues for the European Union: firstly, the issue of European defense, and secondly, the crisis of asylum seekers and migration towards Europe. In this regard, the Union will give more importance to NATO, and in the absence of a single European defense system, the member states will try to make two percent of their domestic production seriously assigned to the defensive budget and make it a focus. At the same time, Belgium pays a lot of attention to the adoption of a coherent policy towards immigration, and therefore, organizing the European Migration Pact, which both outlines a single policy for the member states and makes the laws more transparent for immigrants, will be on the agenda of Brussels. The development of the Union and policies related to new membership in the long term are also considered under the title of Global Europe.

Reza Haghighi, a senior expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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