Tuesday

24th Nov 2020

Fall of Belgian government will not affect its EU presidency, says commission

The European Commission has said it does not believe the recent fall of the Belgian government will have a negative impact on the country's tenure of the EU's six-month rotating presidency, due to start on 1 July.

"We are confident that Belgium will have a very effective presidency," commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a regular news conference in Brussels on Tuesday (27 April).

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"We've been working for months with the Belgian authorities to try to make a success of the presidency and we are confident that Belgium will be able to perform all the tasks related to its presidency," she added.

The Belgian government formally collapsed on Monday when the country's head of state, King Albert II, accepted Prime Minister Yves Leterme's resignation.

Mr Leterme tendered his resignation last Thursday when a key coalition partner pulled out of the government, but the king had been holding out in the hope a compromise solutions between the squabbling partners could be achieved.

The fall marks the end of the fourth government since elections in 2007, with analysts pointing to the possibility of a snap election this June, just weeks before Belgium is scheduled to take over the EU's rotating presidency.

Privately, EU officials admit that the timing of Belgium's latest dispute, centred around the rights of minority French speakers in suburbs outside Brussels, is far from ideal, with the fall of the Czech government in early 2009 widely perceived as reducing the efficiency of the central European state during its presidency.

Despite the reduced role of the rotating six-month presidency under the Lisbon Treaty, holders are still expected to carry out much of the important work formally assigned to the job under the EU's old rulebook, the Treaty of Nice.

While the bloc's new high representative Catherine Ashton has reduced the role of presidency foreign ministers, presidency ministers in the fields of justice, agriculture, fisheries and economic portfolios are still seen as being crucial deal-brokers between EU member states.

Current presidency chair Spain is considered to occupy a middle ground between the old and new regimes, with delays in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 creating uncertainty over which rules would apply to the southern country's presidency.

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