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Passing the baton from the Spanish to the Belgian EU Council presidency

As we approach the end of 2023, Belgium is getting ready to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union as of 1 January 2024. This transition, following Spain's tenure in the latter half of 2023, marks a significant moment, as Belgium prepares to take the lead for the thirteenth time. Belgium is the second country of the EU Presidency trio (Spain – Belgium – Hungary) that adopted a joint programme outlining the common priorities (for more details, see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2023).  

The Belgian presidency will focus on six closely linked priority areas, crucial for the future of Europe: 

  • Defending rule of law, democracy, and unity 
  • Strengthening Europe’s competitiveness 
  • Pursuing a green and just transition 
  • Reinforcing social and health agenda 
  • Protecting people and borders 
  • Promoting a global Europe  

Central to the Presidency's education vision is the further development of the European Education Area (EEA). The Belgian Presidency plans to strengthen the EEA, enhance the quality of education, and promote lifelong learning. This will involve improving the visibility and quality of lifelong learning opportunities and addressing barriers to learning and teaching mobility. According to the Belgian Minister Françoise Bertieaux (Wallonia-Brussels), who is responsible for higher education, scientific research, university hospitals, youth assistance, houses of justice, promotion of Brussels, and youth, mobility will be central to the incoming Belgian Presidency. The Presidency plans to work towards updating the current EU learning mobility framework. The latter is being negotiated with the Council based on the Commission’s proposal for Europe on the move (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2023), aiming to promote learning mobility for learners and education staff across all sectors and at all levels, including formal, non-formal, and informal learning settings. 

A special emphasis will be also placed on student mobility within higher education. The Belgian Presidency intends to engage in discussions on the forthcoming higher education package, focusing on pathways towards joint European degrees, establishing a European quality assurance and recognition system in higher education, and creating a framework for sustainable careers in academia (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, October 2023).  

Finally, the Presidency also recognises the critical role of digital education and challenges posed by teacher shortages. Efforts will be made to ensure that digital education is qualitative, inclusive, and accessible. This includes facilitating exchanges on member states' needs for successful digital education policy implementation and reflecting on the progress and priorities of the Digital Education Action Plan for 2024-2027. 

Read the Belgian presidency programme here.