Credit: Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (

From 1 January to 30 June 2024, Belgium is holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU).

This presidency forms part of the presidency "trio" composed of Spain, Belgium and Hungary. Under the motto "Protect, Strengthen, Prepare", the Belgian Presidency is focusing on six priority areas: defending rule of law, democracy and unity; strengthening our competitiveness; pursuing a green and just transition; reinforcing our social and health agenda; protecting people and borders; promoting a global Europe. reached out to the Ambassador of Belgium to Luxembourg, Thomas Lambert, to learn more about the Belgian Presidency, its priorities and the facilitating role played by the Belgian Embassy in Luxembourg. This marks the thirteenth time that Belgium has held the presidency of the Council of the European Union. What is the significance of the chosen motto "Protect, Strengthen, Prepare" for this presidency? 

Ambassador Thomas Lambert: This motto entails concisely the key six themes of the mandate of the Belgian Presidency which began on 1 January 2024.

Protect: this theme echoes the protection of citizens and frontiers, underlining the engagement of this presidency to guarantee the safety and well-being of Europeans. It also goes back to the protection of our democratic values, the rule of law, unicity, including support to Ukraine, but it also implies a strengthening / bolstering of the social and health agenda.

Strengthen: regards the strengthening of the EU on the world scene. It focuses on the significance to consolidate the unicity and European solidarity to face both internal and external challenges. This includes a fair and equitable transition, ensuring that sustainable development and environmental policies are addressed with foresight / prospective vision.

Prepare: this refers to the preparation for the future EU enlargements and to anticipation of future challenges. This term emphasises the importance of anticipation and strategic planification in all areas of EU action. It also refers to the need of an overhaul of the EU in order to maintain its ability to perform.

In a nutshell, this phrase embodies a holistic vision of the Belgian Presidency, focusing on protection of citizen[s] of the EU and its acquis, the strengthening of its structures and its abilities, its economy and the anticipatory approach to future challenges. It symbolises an engagement towards a safer, stronger and more resilient Europe, one capable to navigate in complex and ever evolving world politics. Why do you feel the six main priorities of the Belgian Presidency are important / relevant for Europe today, particularly in the context of a "big" election year (European elections, etc.)?

Ambassador Thomas Lambert: The six main priorities Belgium has put forward for its presidency aim to prepare for the next European legislative term (2024-2029). They are in line with the strategic agenda and are indeed all the more significant as they chart the course for the five (next) years to come.

However, it will also be the result of a collective work between the President of the European Council and supported by the Belgian Presidency. Do these priorities offer continuity after the Spanish presidency or rather create new momentum / set new goals adapted to an evolving context?

Ambassador Thomas Lambert: The operative word is indeed "continuity". For any presidency of the Council of the European Union, the work dynamic is always a trio / triumvirate, which consists in working together with the previous presiding Member State and the next presiding Member State. This presidency is no different, we are working together with Spain, (Belgium) and Hungary towards the goals of the EU. The role of Belgium as presiding Member State is to ensure a seamless transition with the next cycle. What role do you hope the Belgian Embassy in Luxembourg (and yourself as Ambassador) can play within this EU Council presidency? Are there any special events and/or meetings on the agenda here in Luxembourg?

Ambassador Thomas Lambert: Our embassy - together with the representation of the EU Commission - has a facilitating role between the embassies of other Member States and our host country, regarding Luxembourg EU policy. In this regard, we host several working lunches with prominent members of the Luxembourg Government and EU ambassadors.

We also organised a press conference, informing a broader audience and the entire corps diplomatique of our ambitions.

In the margins of the BE EU Presidency, we also co-organise events such as the contemporary art exhibition of the works of HRH Princess Delphine of Belgium at the Spuerkeess HQ (Avenue de la Liberté 19), another exhibition in May of the works of painter / political cartoonist Karl Meersman at Foyer / Capital at Work and a piano concert at the Philharmonie by Belgian artist Daniel Verstappen on 26 June. On another note, what are the priorities of the Belgian presidency of Benelux and how might these overlap with/complement the EU presidency priorities? What role do you feel Benelux plays (or can play) in shaping the future of the European Union, particularly during a period of uncertainty and "crises"?

Ambassador Thomas Lambert: The Benelux has always been and will remain a prime test bed for further EU integration. Our three countries - as co-founding fathers / mothers of the EU - share a common sentiment with regard to EU cooperation and integration.

A Benelux Presidency, therefore, seeks to enhance - very often in an informal way - processes at EU level. By preparing upcoming political meetings, or potentially also by proceeding to find solutions amongst ourselves, that could be replicated at EU level later on.

We also have a unique tool in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU: art. 350 of that Treaty specifically grants the Benelux Member States to integrate further and faster, setting higher standards for future EU integration.

(Ambassador Thomas Lambert; photo credit: Embassy of Belgium in Luxembourg)