About us

Permanent Representation: what does it do and what is its role?

  1. Last updated on

Welcome to the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the European Union!

The Permanent Representation of Belgium to the European Union (EU) is located at the heart of the European neighboorhoud in Brussels and is the biggest diplomatic mission, or “embassy” of the Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (MFA).  

The Belgian Permanent Representation to the EU (or “PermRep “ in European jargon) currently employs about 250 staff members, as our country is preparing the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2024. 

The PermRep is a unique melting pot of colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the various federal administrations, as well as the communities and regions according to the division of competences at both the European and Belgian level. The PermRep is a reflection of the federal state and a miniature Belgium at the heart of Europe.  

Besides its role as representation at the European level, the PermRep is also the centre for expertise in European affairs. It is the daily interface between de Belgian authorities and the European institutions, where the transfer of information and anticipation are key. 

"It’s essential for Belgium to organize itself like other member states to participate in a structured way in debates at the level of the EU"

Image
Willem van de Voorde

Ambassador Willem van de Voorde is the Permanent Representative of Belgium to the EU. The head of our diplomatic mission tells us a little bit more about the specificities of the functioning of the PermRep:  

van de Voorde: “It might seem odd that Belgium, being the host country of different main European institutions, needs a representation to the European Union. Experience has proven that it is essential for Belgium organizes itself like other member states to participate in a structured way in debates at the level of the EU. The different diplomats and experts working at Permanent representation sit in about 20 working parties in which consultations happen between the member states, the European Commission and other institutions of the European Union. It is in this various of forums and working parties that European regulations are prepared and discussed, and which European cooperation is achieved.” 

Coreper and the Council of ministers: the decision-making in the Council of the EU

The PermRep is the voice of Belgium and Europe and represents the interests of Belgium in the European Union. Together with 26 other member states in the EU, the PermRep elaborates european policies within the Council of the European Union in different fields such as the internal market, energy, transport, environment, agriculture, fisheries, consumption, tourism, telecommunications, employement, industries, health, research & education, foreign policy, financial & budgetary questions and justice & home affairs. 

The Council of the European Union is “the house of the member statesé. It’s where the member states negotiate and define their positions on all legislative files.  

The word of the Council of ministers is prepared by “COREPER”, le comité des représentants permanents des états membres de l’Union européenne or the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union. The Coreper meets in two configurations, in Coreper II sits the permanent representative and in Coreper I the deputy permanent representative. 

Coreper meets at least once a week and prepares the meetings of the Council of ministers. Moreover, coreper assures an overview et coordinates the work of the different working parties which are composed of experts from the member states  

The Council of ministers meets on a regular basis, in one of the ten configurations, depending on the subject (video).  

After having adopted its position, the Council negotiates with the European Parliament in the so-called “trilogues” following the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Parliament and the Counci are on the same footing in the procedure and work as “co-legislators”.  

The European Council which is composed of the heads of states meets several times a year during during the so-called European summits. This institution defines the priorities and the overall political direction. The current president of the European Council is Charles Michel. The summits are prepared by the General Affairs Council configuration (GAC). 

“Coreper is the last step of preparation before the ministerial meetings of the Council.”

Image
Pierre Cartuyvels

Pierre Cartuyvels, Deputy Permanent Representative, explains the role of Coreper. 

“Our representatives work hard in the different working groups to translate the Belgian positions that are defined from common agreements coming from the different ministerial cabinets and involved administrations – both on the federal level and federated entities.  

 

The outcomes of the discussions in the working groups are then sent to Coreper which represents the last step of preparation before the ministerial meetings of the Council. As Deputy Permanent Representative, I represent Belgium in Coreper I, that deals with questions such as environment, climate, digital affairs, social affairs etc. Once the files are negotiated with my colleagues, they are sent to the ministerial level for political discussion and final decision.  

Presidency of the Council in 2024

In 2024, Belgium will take over the rotating presidency of the Council. Every six months a different member state takes up the role of presidency. Spain holds the current presidency of the Council, followed by Belgium and Hungary. Together, we form the traditional trio presidency, which cooperates closely together on a common agenda. Read about the trio programme here. (PDF, 304.04 KB)

“We are making considerable efforts to contribute to EU debates on all files.”

Image
Stéphane Mund

Ambassadeur Stéphane Mund represents Belgium in the Political and Security Committee (PSC), responsible for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). He underlines the importance of Belgium in the European decision making process:  

 

“Belgium is making considerable efforts to contribute to debates at the level of the European Union. A European approach to foreign, security and defence policy is essential for Belgium. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a reminder of the importance of a coordinated approach and coherent action between Member States. Fortunately, we can count on a team of seasoned diplomats and military officers to tackle the major challenges we often face!