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EU Summit to Focus on Finance, Immigration, Reform


European leaders are in Brussels for two days of talks on such thorny issues as ways to better regulate the financial markets and ways to coax Irish voters to back a set of ambitious European reforms.

The European Union summit is the last under the rocky EU presidency of the Czech Republic that saw the Czech government collapse during its tenure. One of the most important issues European leaders will face is whether to tighten cross-border oversight on banks and other financial institutions to help avoid a repeat of the current financial crisis.

In remarks to reporters before the start of the summit, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering expressed confidence an agreement would be reached.

"I think today and tomorrow there will be decisions to act on the basis of social market economy, better control. We believe in [the] market, but the market has to serve the people and so I think the concept of social market economy...is a good basis for this," he said.

But such sentiments are far from unanimous. Britain, in particular, is concerned that new European regulatory agencies would have too much power. Those fears may water down any agreement leaders strike by the time the summit ends on Friday.

European heads of state are also expected to consider possible guarantees to offer Ireland to persuade Irish voters to back efforts to streamline and reform the European Union through a document known as the Lisbon treaty. Most European governments have approved the treaty, but Irish voters rejected it in a referendum last year. Another referendum will probably take place in October.

Also on the summit agenda are EU plans to fight climate change and illegal immigration, among other issues. There will also be the election of a European Commission president which will likely result in the re-election of the current president, Jose Manuel Barroso.

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