How will Belgium handle its six month turn running the rotating presidency of the European Union from this 1 July?
The country has just been through an election, called after infighting between the different language communities triggered the government’s downfall.
No matter, said acting prime minister Yves Leterme: “There is a government in place entirely capable of managing the Belgian EU presidency, the more so because the programme was negotiated with all the major parties in Belgium. More than 80 percent of these parties approved the programme.”
The country’s separatist New Flemish Alliance party was the biggest winner in the elections. Its leader, Bart De Wever, is leading the quest to form a new government.
Leterme, who is expected to continue in his current role at least until October, insists the EU presidency’s priorities will be unaffected by that process. Leterme said: “Institutional problems, requests for redistribution of powers to act and responsibilities… these have been around for years, and are therefore totally independent of the European calendar.”
The uncertainties include the euro and the economic fallout of the global credit crisis — however, Flemish former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy, now permanent chair of the European Council of heads of state and government, is also expected to contribute his talents to a successful Belgian EU presidency.