Belgium’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union: congratulatory letter

Letter from External Affairs Secretary to to Belgium’s Foreign Minister on the occasion of the start of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

To: Hadja Lahbib, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

From: Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

I am writing to offer my support for the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU. We have looked with interest at your Presidency priorities, and we wish you all the best for what I am sure will be a very busy time. Your priorities as outlined in the Presidency programme resonate in a number of areas with our own priorities in Scotland and the action we are taking.

We are particularly interested in your priority on ‘pursuing a green and just transition’ and welcome your approach of putting climate and energy transition at the heart of your priorities. In Scotland we continue to make great strides towards our ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045 and recently published our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. A core part of this plan is a determination to ensure that this transition is done in a fair way (to ensure a just transition), leaving no one behind in line with your own approach. In line with your focus to ‘rapidly advance the development of renewable and lowcarbon energy sources’ we continue to work with our partners in the EU to explore the steps needed to realise our export potential of green hydrogen. Scotland has extensive renewable resources and is well-placed to ensure long-term security of supply of clean, reliable electricity from wind, solar and hydrogen. I look forward to expanding on this topic and having a more detailed exchange when I meet your colleague Tinne Van Der Straeten later this month, during my visit to Brussels.

We take a keen interest in the Presidency’s emphasis on ‘strengthening our competitiveness’ in particular with regard to research and innovation. We strongly welcome the UK rejoining Horizon and Copernicus programmes from 1 January, and look forward to enhanced collaboration with Belgium and the EU’s other Member States. On creating a sustainable, innovative and resilient digital ecosystem and its focus on new technologies, Scotland’s Digital Strategy sets out a vision of an ethical digital nation with services designed around people, where geography, background or ability should not be barriers to getting online and benefiting from digital technology. We are committed to influencing the global development of Artificial Intelligence regulation to ensure a high level of protection of health, safety, fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law and the environment. 

On Justice and Home Affairs, despite the difficulties posed by the UK’s exit from the EU, Scotland has continued to enjoy strong cooperation from Belgian operational partners. Our Vision for Justice sets out our overarching strategy for the Scottish justice system, including having effective, modern person-centred and trauma-informed approaches to justice in which everyone can have trust, including as victims, those accused of crimes and as individuals in civil disputes. Effective policy exchange and international cooperation is essential to combatting international criminality, and we particularly look forward to seeing Belgian proposals on advancing cross-border police cooperation, stronger digital judicial cooperation and the transfer of criminal proceedings. 

Addressing gender-based violence and violence disproportionately affecting women is also  key priority for the Scottish Government. The Equally Safe Strategy was refreshed in 2023 and seeks to achieve greater gender equality, secure early intervention to prevent violence against women and girls, and to better tackle the perpetrators of these crimes. Accordingly, the work on finalising the direction on combating violence against women and domestic violence is of particular interest to the Scottish Government. 

On ‘promoting a global Europe’ we support your approach on defending the EU’s interests and values, including in solidarity with Ukraine in the face of illegal Russian aggression and in Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery efforts. 

It is clear that there are many synergies and shared priorities between us and I would be very happy to expand on any of these topics, either in correspondence or in my forthcoming visit to Brussels. I would like to wish you and your colleagues a successful Presidency of the Council of the EU.

I am also sending a copy of this letter to Minister-Presidents Jan Jambon, Elio Di Rupo, Rudi Vervoort and Oliver Paasch, and to Ambassador van der Pluijm.

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