Belgian Presidency: time is ticking for EU green agenda
Belgium takes over the rotating 6-months Presidency of the EU Council from 1 January 2024. With this, Belgium will not only play a pivotal role in overseeing the upcoming EU elections in June, it will also be taking on the crucial responsibility of finalising the Green Deal before Europe transitions into elections mode. Time is ticking for Europe’s green agenda, as much will need to be done before the March cut-off.
Following the Spanish Presidency, the Belgians are inheriting a progressively challenging political landscape. 2023 witnessed an unprecedented onslaught by far right ideologues and influential lobbyists who sought to actively undermine Europe’s green agenda through a barrage of disinformation and relentless industry lobbying. Regrettably, key Green Deal files, such as the REACH revision on hazardous chemicals and the Sustainable Food Systems law, were unceremoniously abandoned. Meanwhile, the now-renowned Nature Restoration Law and the critical Packaging and Packaging Waste regulation suffered a considerable loss of their initial ambition to what Members of Parliament describe as the most aggressive lobbying they had ever seen.
Despite ambitious targets and substantial efforts, the Spanish Presidency delivered mixed results on Green Deal files. Therefore, it is imperative for Belgium to show leadership and make advance on all remaining Green Deal files before the March deadline. This includes completing trilogue negotiations where possible, given the looming risk of a less progressive Parliament following the June elections. The triple climate, biodiversity and pollution crises spare no delay, and Europe must act urgently to tackle these pressing challenges.
Belgium has a unique opportunity to set a progressive vision for the next five years, as well as ensure a constructive legacy for the partners in the Spain-Belgium-Hungary Presidency Trio, running from 1 July 2023 to December 2024. It will also have an opportunity to show leadership on the international stage, with its initiatives on circular economy and water policy during the 6th UN Environment Assembly, and ongoing negotiations for a global treaty to end plastic pollution.
Patrick ten Brink, EEB Secretary General, stated:
“This year was a turning point for the European Green Deal, where hope turned into frustration and deep concern. The next risks becoming a tipping point—where despondency and fear prevail over need and ambition. But it does not have to be so. In 2024 delivering the Green Deal and putting in place a renewed agenda of hope is essential—not just to deliver on promises and address the triple climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, but to embrace the many opportunities for transformative action. The environmental agenda is a health and social agenda, an agenda of security and resilience, and an agenda of opportunity.”
The EEB welcomes the Belgian Presidency’s commitment to three specific priorities: circular economy, resilience to climate change, and the just transition. Other important legislative areas during Belgium’s six months in the driving seat include air quality and zero pollution, chemicals, sustainable mobility, biodiversity and soil health, as well as key circular economy legislation such as packaging and waste and green claims.
Despite challenges, the engagement, commitment and leadership of this Presidency can make a lasting and fundamental difference as Europe stands at a crossroads. The Ten Green Tests are a bold civil society vision of potential success by the Belgian Presidency of the EU in the context of the challenges the planet and society face.
Notes to editors
Every six months at the rotation of the two EU presidencies, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing Presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency.
Our assessment of the Spanish Presidency will soon be circulated to press as well.