EU Presidency in jeopardy?

On 1 July Belgium takes over the presidency of the European Union. Many international commentators are now wondering what the impact of the present political crisis will be on our presidency.

In recent months the EU Presidency has often been used as a kind of excuse to avoid a political crisis at home. This worked for a time, but has now clearly failed.

VRT News's political commentator Johny Vansevenant does not believe that the collapse of the government will derail the Belgian presidency.

The presidency really only takes off at the beginning of September. This gives Belgium's political parties a full two months to sort out a government deal after anticipated elections in June. Mr Vansevenant seems to forget that several Belgian government formation attempts have taken over two months.

In addition, Europe unlike BHV - the splitting of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde constituency - is not a contentious issue in Belgium. There is wide agreement on the direction Belgium would like to see the EU taking and Europe is not an issue that sparks great debate in society at large.

A Belgian presidency need not necessarily stop Europe in its tracks, Johny Vansevenant argues.

"Bad for our image abroad"

The Belgian on the European Commission, the Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, has said that he hopes that it will be a Belgian Government with full powers and not a caretaker one that is in power on 1 July when Belgium takes over from Spain.

Mr De Gucht believes that a caretaker administration in charge of the EU might give the wrong impression abroad.

He is urging “five minutes of political courage” on both sides of the linguistic divide and argues that resolving BHV cannot be such a difficult task, if political parties are prepared to take a political risk.

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