Today, Monday 17 May, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès and her fellow ministers met at the invitation of the Portuguese presidency in Coimbra, Portugal, for an informal meeting of the Council of European Affairs. The meeting took the theme of the Future, with the first meeting of the “Ministers for the Future” on the strategic autonomy and resilience of the European Union. There was a Conference on the Constitutional State in the margins of the Council.

Ministers for the Future

During the informal meeting of the Council of European Affairs, the EU Foresight Network (which integrates strategic planning into EU policy-forming) was launched at a ministerial level, with an initial meeting of the Ministers for the Future. From now on, they will meet once a year and, in order to support the Commission, will provide input on the most important challenges for the EU and how to tackle them. Today, in this context, they exchanged ideas on the strategic autonomy and resilience of the EU.

When it comes to strategic autonomy, we must not strive for protectionism, according to Minister Wilmès. “We must be ambitious and, via the green and digital transition of the EU, rediscover the basic philosophy of Europe, namely combining our resources, which are complementary, whereby our integration will be strengthened and our interests will gradually merge. Additionally, our fundamental values and respect for the constitutional state must also become a strategic investment.”

Our capacity to develop our autonomy will also depend upon our efficiency, according to Sophie Wilmès. “Our internal procedures, the way in which we make decisions, and the tools that we use must more effectively serve our international strategy.”

Over its history, the EU has shown resilience when confronted with crises, and that shall also apply to the coronavirus crisis. Nevertheless, we must learn lessons, according to Wilmès, particularly from the events of the first wave. “We must reflect on our actions and aim to do more, be quicker, act in a coordinated manner, and combine forces effectively. The key to success lies in our unity and solidarity.”

Constitutional State

In the run-up to the Informal Council, Deputy Prime Minister Wilmès also took part in a Conference on the Constitutional State, organised by the Portuguese presidency. The objective was to assess the actions that have been taken throughout the EU in order to promote the constitutional state and to propose new directions. Belgium applauds this initiative, in the belief that respect for the constitutional state and European core values is an absolute priority for our country and the entire EU, and should never be challenged. Belgium shall defend these fundamental values with all its power and every possible resource.