Which will it be?

At the beginning of this month the Belgian State Secretary for European Affairs Olivier Chastel is known to have stated that Belgium will mark a “rupture”, or a break, from current practice following the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty that, to an extent, give the EU Presidency a backseat role to President Van Rompuy and Baroness Catherine Ashton.

On the eve of his country's Presidency - Belgian PM Yves Leterme (Credit © European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

One does wonder however whether the Belgians are not taking this backseat role too literally.

With the full programme and website for the Presidency only having been unveiled today, less than a week before the Presidency is due to begin, it is perhaps not surprising that a certain anxiety has been felt in the air.

While these delays could be explained in light of Belgium’s recent political troubles, and Belgian leaders have tried to reassure everyone that these will not affect the Presidency, the lack of ambition with which certain key political figures reassure still gives ground for concern.

Talking to Mr Barroso this week, for example, Bart De Wever, the Flemish nationalist who claimed victory in the recent election, said he aims “to have a government in place before October, when the really important work of the Presidency will begin”.

It may well be that the groundbreaking work will occur in the autumn months, and having a government in place is not as crucial for ensuring the smooth running of a Presidency.

However, in just six months it is clear that the Presidency has to deliver at a time when fears of a double-dip recession are in the air, and any lack of ambition for the first three of these months could prove fateful.

– Signe

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