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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

July 1, 2001

The e-mail reads:

Today Belgium assumes its role as the President of the Council of the European Union for the twelfth time in its history. It is a moment for Flanders and Belgium to shine: the rest of Europe, and indeed the world, will be watching as our country takes partial command of the complex EU institutional machinery. This time, Belgium is part of a triumvirate, in which Spain, Belgium, and Hungary consecutively chair the Council of Ministers for six months. This trio presidency of the Council of the European Union is the first one that falls entirely under the regime of the new Lisbon Treaty. This Treaty gives Europe the necessary clout to answer today’s challenges. Flanders has made substantive contributions to the joint presidency program of Spain, Belgium and Hungary, and to the Belgian one.

Thanks to our unique state structure, which has been taken into account in the EU Treaties, either a federal or a regional minister can represent our country in the EU Council meetings, depending on the internal distribution of competences in our country. During the Belgian EU Presidency, Flanders will preside over the important policy areas of Education, Youth, Sports, Environment, and Fisheries, and play a major role in the Agriculture Council. For other important policy fields such as Culture, Energy, Social Affairs and Employment, Flemish ministers will either occupy the national Belgian seat at the Council of Ministers’ table, or assist the Belgian colleague who holds the EU Presidency.

Through this important, multi-disciplinary role, Flanders will have the opportunity to steer European discussions and policy making and draw attention to the Flemish priorities for this Presidency.

With the EU tentatively emerging from an economic downturn – and stumbling through crises like the recent euro debt threat – the Belgian presidency comes at a sensitive moment, particularly after last month’s federal elections. The big winner of these elections in the northern part of the country, the NVA and its president Bart De Wever, picked up 27 seats in parliament, making it the largest party in Flanders and Belgium. Even without a new, fully mandated federal government, our politicians and officials are more than up for the task of running an EU presidency simply because our country has such a rich tradition and expertise in EU matters.

The EU has much more influence on the daily life of Europeans than you may think: generally more than 70% of the legislation Europeans have to abide by, originates at the EU level! As our Minister-President recently highlighted with the slogan “Flanders shines in Europe, Europe shines in Flanders;” the EU Presidency is an excellent opportunity for Flanders to celebrate Europe and to bring Europe even closer to the Flemish people. We hope to achieve something similar with this introduction and to bring the European Union and the role of Flanders in the EU somewhat closer to all Flemings and the friends of Flanders in the US.

I wish you all an enjoyable Flanders Day on July 11 and relaxing summer holidays!

All the best,
Kris Dierckx
Director, Flanders House New York

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