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From 1 July through 31 December Belgium will take on the rotating presidency of the European Union. The Belgian state is in transition due to the recent national elections on 13 June and the ongoing formation of a new government. Yves Leterme, the acting Belgian prime minister, has assured that the EU presidency will not be affected by the country’s political situation and it “will live up to expectations”. This statement has been reinforced by Olivier Chastel, the Belgian State Secretary. Chastel has argued that the significant parts of the Belgian programme for the EU Presidency relate more closely to the competencies of Belgium’s regional governments than to the Belgian federal government.
On 16 June the final version of the Belgian EU presidency programme was formally adopted by the cabinet and the constituent regions of Belgium. The Belgian political leaders expect more coordination from the European Council and from Herman Van Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister and current chair of the European Council, with the goal of somehow limiting confusion between the various leadership roles and responsibilities.
Whether and how Belgium will meet the challenges of the next six months is yet to be seen. As the English say, ‘the proof is in the pudding’.