United Kingdom was supposed to assume the presidency in the second half of 2017 but the Leave vote makes this unlikely. According to Belga news agency, the Belgian minister of foreign affairs Didier Reynders said on Saturday (16 July) that Belgium is prepared, if necessary, to assume the EU presidency. United Kingdom will probably by then be negotiating its exit from EU.
The idea was put forward for the first time at the recent NATO summit in Warsaw. “My Estonian colleague asked me if it was true that we were planning to take over the presidency of the United Kingdom,” Didier Reynders said. “The scenario had obviously been mentioned, among others, within the European institutions.”
After consultation with the Belgian government, the foreign minister had the opportunity to discuss the issue with his European colleagues and the leaders of the European institutions on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) last week in Ulan Bator in Mongolia.
The European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would look favorably at a Belgian presidency, because Belgium has experience in organizing such an event.
“We were in charge of the presidency in 2001 and again in 2010 and next one is only scheduled in 2024,” summarizes Didier Reynders.
An additional presidency in 2017 would not require much expense for Belgium, since it could use the buildings of the European institutions, including the new building of the Council that is in the process of being finished.
An EU presidency would complete a series of international events that Belgium will organize. Brussels will host a NATO summit in early 2017 and next ASEM summit in 2018.
United Kingdom was supposed to organize the EU presidency in the second half 2017, after Malta, but the victory of the “Leave” camp in the British referendum makes this questionable. A decision on replacing United Kingdom by Belgium could be taken quickly, maybe even next week.