In Europe
Group photo in the European Council.

Brussels is more than ever the beating heart of Europe

The Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) which kicked off on 1 January, promises to be a pivotal moment on the international stage. In a few figures, this role represents more than 600 official events as well as 183 labelled events under the auspices of the Belgian presidency, many of which will unfold in the capital. The Brussels-Capital Region (BCR), which organises no fewer than fifty events, is in the starting blocks from January 2024. It will focus mainly on the role of large cities as drivers of European policies, as well as on the themes of the environment and climate change.

During the EU Presidency, the Brussels Minister-President, Rudi Vervoort, the Minister for the Environment, Energy and Climate Transition, Alain Maron, and the Secretary of State for European and International Relations, Ans Persoons, aim to showcase how Brussels reflects on urban and environmental challenges

Together with their respective administrations Brussels International,, and Bruxelles Environnement, they are joining forces to host and chair a series of events of international importance. They will be defending a policy in which major cities play the role of partners and driving forces in achieving European objectives. With more than 75% of Europeans living in cities, it is crucial that the urban dimension plays a defining role in shaping European policy both now and in the years to come.


Mayors of major European cities meet in Brussels

The Egmont Palace will serve as the stage for the high-level event “A European urban policy fit for the future”. More than 30 mayors of major European cities will gather there and sign a declaration setting out their priorities for the attention of the European Parliament and the European Commission. The aim is to increase the involvement of cities in the European decision-making process. The event will be chaired by Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and Brussels Secretary of State Ans Persoons.

“Over the next six months, Brussels will be more than ever the beating heart of the European Union, as it will be at the centre of the 13th Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Brussels-Capital Region will actively contribute to the rotating presidency. At a high-level meeting on the future of EU urban policy and a conference on urban security, the Region aims to emphasise the significance of cities and metropolises as integral cogs in the European machinery and key drivers in achieving European objectives across economic, social and territorial cohesion, climate and innovation. Furthermore, the people of Brussels and the many visitors to our capital will be able to indulge in many public and cultural events putting Europe in the spotlight”, said Rudi Vervoort.

“Because cities must have a voice in European policies, Brussels will be hosting over 30 mayors of European capitals and major cities to an event on urban challenges. Cities are forerunners, taking the lead in addressing significant societal challenges and often finding innovative responses. With our summit, we aim to encourage the European institutions to enhance their engagement with cities and grant them co-decisional powers in shaping European urban policies. We look forward to using the Belgian presidency to give the people of Brussels a better understanding of and feeling for Europe. In these turbulent times, we must continue to stress the importance of the EU for our prosperity, our democracy and our protection in the face of various threats”, added Ans Persoons.

President of the Environment Council

On 15 and 16 January, Minister Alain Maron, who holds the presidency of the Environment Council, will convene his European counterparts for a first informal ministerial meeting. This will take place at Egmont Palace. To respond to the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and air pollution, participants are invited to exchange ideas on the resilience needed within the climate challenges, just transition and strengthening the circular economy.

The 27 environment and climate ministers will delve into the actions to be implemented in the coming years to attain climate neutrality by 2050. These discussions will guide the presidency’s work on the environment and climate over the next six months.

“The Belgian Presidency offers a unique opportunity to prepare the future of political environmental and climate policy. I consider it important to invite my EU counterparts to Brussels from January to discuss the EU’s priorities in response to the pressing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Action in the years ahead will be critical to accelerate the transition in a just and equitable manner, strengthen our resilience and achieving climate neutrality in 2050”, stated Minister Alain Maron.

People pose standing in front of a grid.
Inauguration of the artwork “L’Aire d’un Souffle” on the Solidarność esplanade.

A city full of art

The people of Brussels and visitors to our capital can expect an array of cultural events and artistic installations that will transform the city during the Belgian presidency. In early January, the opening salvo was fired on the esplanade Solidarność adjacent to the European Parliament. An installation by Brussels-based artists Ann-Veronica Janssens and Michel François was erected there.

The city will be awash in splendour during Bright, the Brussels light festival, scheduled to illuminate the city centre and, of course, the European district in 2024. The many light installations will transform the city, imbuing the atmosphere with a distinctly European flair and serving as a symbol of the Presidency. The exhibition “New ways of living” will take another look at our society in the Halles Saint-Géry.

The image of Brussels

The Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union also offers Brussels residents an opportunity to get in touch (again) with the European dimension of Brussels. Europe Direct, an EU information service, is actively engaged in various initiatives to foster dialogue with young Brussels citizens, raising awareness of the EU’s impact on their daily lives. And then there is the European Quarter, which has received a fresh branding, allowing it to show itself as a lively, dynamic and welcoming neighbourhood.

Finally, the Belgian presidency of the European Union presents a singular opportunity to strengthen the image of Brussels among the diverse international public in our capital. A communication campaign centred on typical Brussels anecdotes told by Europeans living in Brussels will spread the image of Brussels as a non-conformist, accessible, pleasant and diverse city.

Giant bright orange kites in the Brussels night sky.
Illuminated fishes above the Mont des Arts. ©
A disguised, all-gold person surrounded by a crowd.
The Belgian Pride Parade in Brussels. ©

Event calendar of January

Type of eventName of the eventStart dateEnd dateLocation
Cultural eventEuropean Union activities for 12-18 year-olds: “All European citizens! (FR)1/01/20245/01/2024TYN – Talented Youth Network
Rue du Ruisseau, 17/19
1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
Cultural eventExhibition heritage: Stoclet 1911 Restitution2/01/202414/04/2024Art & History Museum
Cultural eventThe Artist’s Parliament: L’Aire d’un Souffle10/01/202430/06/2024Esplanade Solidarność
Cultural eventClosing event of the exhibtion “Throwaway, the history of a modern crisis”13/01/202413/01/2024House of European history
Official eventENVI: Informal Council15/01/202416/01/2024Egmont Palace
Official eventBelgian Renovation Week15/01/202418/01/2024Maison de la Poste
OtherInterparlementary conference22/01/202422/01/2024Brussels parliament
Official eventHigh-level conference (European mayors) on the future of urban policy post 202723/01/202424/01/2024Egmont Palace
Official eventRhine-Meuse Forum 2024: The Green Deal, and now?25/01/202425/01/2024Grand Est Europe
Rue du Luxembourg, 15
1000 Bruxelles
OtherMinisterial Conference on Animal Welfare29/01/202429/01/2024Maison de la Poste