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European Union holds first general post-Lisbon Treaty summit

March 25, 2010 - BRUSSELS

This first general European Union summit of the post-Lisbon Treaty epoch will be smaller than its predecessors. The first full-time EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, vows to shut ministers out of the meeting. He argues that leaders will accomplish more if they are eyeball-to-eyeball, a situation made possible by keeping summit numbers small. Economic growth and climate change will be summit priorities, with Haiti's needs a likely addition to the agenda. Demonstrations are expected.

This first general European Union summit of the post-Lisbon Treaty epoch will be smaller than its predecessors. The first full-time EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, vows to shut ministers out of the meeting. He argues that leaders will accomplish more if they are eyeball-to-eyeball, a situation made possible by keeping summit numbers small. Economic growth and climate change will be summit priorities, with Haiti's needs a likely addition to the agenda. Trade unions have called for a European demonstration dedicated to social issues in Brussels in March ahead of the summit. A Reuters report in January suggests that the bloc is trying to allay concern that the EU leadership may lack cohesion as it implements changes under the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty is the culmination of Europe's 8-year quest to establish a simpler and more democratic regime Reuters says the bloc is urging its 27 member states to coordinate their economic policy more closely to boost growth and ensure the EU emerges strongly from the financial crisis. Greece can count on a scold for its budget deficit, estimated at close to 13 per cent of gross domestic product in 2009. Fears that Greece could default on its debt are rattling the markets. Ratings agencies have downgraded its sovereign bonds and the cost of insuring Greek government debt against a default has hit record highs. The leaders are likely to decide whether to rescue Greece from its economic woes. A special EU summit in February focused on a strategy for fostering jobs and socially-inclusive growth and for setting the EU agenda until 2020. It prepared ground for leaders' meeting in March. The European Commission will present the proposal for a 10-year strategy. The leaders can be expected to continue their analysis of what went wrong for the bloc at the United Nations Copenhagen summit in December when it sought a legally binding agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for warming the planet. The EU proposal was sidelined: the chaotic 190-nation conference merely noted a nonbinding accord on broad principles, without committing to numbers. The United States, China, Brazil, South Africa and India signed off on the accord without EU participation The bloc is mourning one of its own: its envoy in Hairi, Pilar Juarez, died in Haiti's devastating earthquake. It has pledged over 400 million euros (US $575 million) in immediate and long-term aid to Haiti in the wake of the disaster. Jan/10.

Van Rompuy plans shake-up of EU summits (EU Observer 11 Dec 2010)

Brussels starts work on new 10-year economic plan (EU Observer 24 Nov 2009)

Greece Is The Problem (WSJ 18 Jan 2010)

EU seeks to regain influence on response to climate change (NYT 14 Jan 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-03-25