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European Union: Belgium Assumes European Union Presidency

(July 2, 2010) July 1, 2010, marks the beginning of Belgium's assumption, for the next six months, of the rotating Presidency of the European Union, taking over that office from Spain. Belgium, one of the original six founding members of what was once the European Community, has a caretaker government amidst domestic problems including the ongoing economic crisis faced by several EU Member states.

At the top of the Belgian Presidency's agenda will be the EU's draft legislative package on financial supervision, and it intends to use its power to reach a compromise between EU Members planning to water down some of the package's provisions and the European Parliament, which plans to withhold its endorsement unless its demands are met on making the legislation tougher in a number of areas. The proposed review of national budgets by EU Members and the imposition of heavy fines on Members that exceed maximum deficit standards remain critical areas of concern and will occupy a major part of negotiations among EU institutions, matters that the Presidency must oversee. In addition, the European Commission will adopt draft legislation establishing tough budgetary rules; the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy will finalize a report on this issue, due in October 2010. (Andrew Willis, Belgian Presidency Sets Parliament in Its Sights, EU OBSERVER (July 1, 2010),

Implementation of foreign policy will also play a major role in the Belgian Presidency. Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere stated that he will not meddle in the efforts of Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to establish the embryonic EU diplomatic service, and he assured her that Belgian diplomats will be prepared to act under her supervision and “her guidance.” Belgium also intends to continue negotiations with four aspiring EU candidate countries, Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, and Turkey. (Id.)

On the domestic front, Belgium intends to revive the Stockholm Program, a five-year plan dealing with immigration, asylum, and domestic security issues. The Belgian Presidency will also focus on establishing an EU patent law and on pursuing climate talks, which will culminate when the EU Members meet in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year. (Id.)