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Belgium commits to strengthen EU’s democracy, competitiveness and food security during EU presidency  

EU's green transition needs farmers to be "on board", Belgium's foreign minister tells the European Committee of the Regions.

The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will defend the foundations of democracy, strengthening the EU's economic competitiveness and single market, and advancing the "necessary ecological transition", Belgium's foreign minister said in a debate with members of the European Committee of the Regions on 31 January.

Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Federal Cultural Institutions of Belgium, underscored the need to the green transition to "truly take everyone on board". The Belgian Presidency "will strengthen food sovereignty," she said, "and that starts with respect for our farmers".

Belgium, like many countries in Europe, is facing ongoing protests from farmers at rising costs, low prices, regulations, and impacts from the war in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Lahbib described the European Commission's decision on 31 January to extend the free-trade agreement with Ukraine as "already a step", adding that the "Presidency is obviously ready to work on all the proposals that would be submitted by the Commission on agriculture". 

A number of CoR members from Spain, Hungary and Belgium voiced the growing frustration of farmers in a debate that also, among many issues, highlighted migration, youth participation, and social challenges, including housing.

The CoR's first vice-president, Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), governor of Central Macedonia, emphasised the EU stands at a defining moment. He said: "In 2024, a new European institutional cycle begins, and we, local and regional authorities, will be ready to make our voice heard and to help define our vision of the future of the EU. At the European Summit of Regions and Cities in March, we will present our priorities to the Belgian Presidency, ensuring that our concerns are at the heart of EU decision-making at a crucial point."

The European Summit of Regions and Cities, which will be held on 18-19 March in Mons, is being co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions and the Belgian region of Wallonia.

The Belgian Presidency has specifically asked the CoR to provide it with legislative recommendations on urbanism, the circular economy, implementing the European youth work agenda, and tackling the shortage of teachers.

 "As Belgians, obviously, more than perhaps any other country, we know well the importance of involving regions and local levels in the various political processes", Foreign Minister Lahbib said.


Background information:

  • The debate can be watched on the CoR website.
  • The European Committee of the Regions will in the coming days publish a study that it has commissioned on “Rural areas and the geography of discontent". The study explores connections between 'development trap' in European regions and Euroscepticism.
  • The 10th European Summit of Regions and Cities, to be held on 18-19 March in Mons, Belgium, will see bring together thousands of mayors, councillors, regional ministers from across the EU and Ukraine. The European Committee of the Regions, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and the Walloon Region are co-organising the event, which will be an important part of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will speak on behalf of the Belgian Presidency, alongside senior representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the UN and other international institutions. Thematic topics include climate crisis, investments and cohesion, public services, digital innovation, youth-friendly cities, gender equality, and decentralised reconstruction of Ukraine.
  • During the Belgian Presidency, the CoR will present its political recommendations from a local and regional perspective at a range of informal Council meetings and key high-level Presidency events. Find the Presidency calendar here.
  • A number of CoR members are occupying the chair of meetings in the Council of the EU during the Belgian Presidency. Elio Di Rupo (PES), minister-president of Wallonia, will lead General Affairs Council meetings on cohesion policy, Rudi Vervoort (PES), minister-president of the government of the Brussels-Capital Region, is chairing meetings on urban development, and Willy Borsus (Renew Europe) for meetings on territorial planning, research and innovation, and space issues. Mr Borsus is vice-president of the Walloon Region and regional minister of the economy, foreign trade, research and innovation, digital, regional planning and agriculture, IFAPME and Skills Centres.



Hélène Dressen

Tel: +32 471 50 27 95


Andrew Gardner

Tel.: +32 473 843 981

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