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EU Leaders Meet in Brussels


EU Leaders Meet in Brussels
EU Leaders Meet in Brussels

European leaders are in Brussels to discuss possible candidates for a future president and foreign minister for the 27-member European Union. The heads of state will also try to overcome sharp differences about paying for developing countries to fight global warming, before a critical climate-change summit in Copenhagen.

Europe is poised to undergo dramatic structural changes, after years of discussions and setbacks. The last hurdle to a key reforming charter, know as the Lisbon Treaty, will disappear when the Czech Republic ratifies the document - which observers expect will take place within weeks.

Among other reforms, the treaty outlines the powerful new post of president of the EU - one of the subjects European leaders are talking about Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Two of the most likely contenders for the presidency are former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg. Former Irish President Mary Robinson is another possibility.

"The summit will start to discuss basically the deal of who will get this very important position," said Hugo Brady, a Brussels-based analyst for policy group the Center for European Reform. "And then, depending on who gets it, that will be clearer as who should get the job of quasi [EU] foreign minister and how the foreign minister's staff will be organized and so on. That will start to emerge at this summit, but there won't be agreement on that issue, which is very controversial."

The EU leaders will also tackle another highly controversial issue - how to share the costs of paying for developing nations to adapt to climate change. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, recommends the bloc pay more than $22 billion a year to poorer countries. Aid groups say Europe should pay more.

Either way, less wealthy EU members, like Poland, want richer ones, like Germany, to pay more.

"It'll be a critical summit, from the point of keeping the EU together, keeping consensus that the EU should maintain leadership on this issue," said Brady. "That will involve keeping countries happy with the division of labor as regards carbon trading, as regards how much they want to hold back their own industrial development, even though they say - particularly many of the EU's new countries - that they were poor for a long time, no different than the Chinese, that they have a right to develop their economy, that it is the rich countries in Europe that are more responsible for climate change than they are and they should get special treatment in any kind of EU position."

The EU leaders are also expected to discuss justice and migration issues.