European Chiefs Meet in Brussels

Thursday European l eaders meet in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss climate change financing, and EU institutional and economic issues.

Unifying the EU member states behind a common vision on climate change, and the EU's institutional future under the renewed Lisbon Treaty was on top of summit's agenda, according to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's invitation letter to the leaders.

The first session of the summit will be focused on "the make-or-break" issue of climate financing to help poor countries fight climate change.

"Just weeks away from the opening of the Copenhagen Conference, it is more than ever necessary (for the EU) to continue playing a leading role and contribute to a global and ambitious climate agreement," said the letter , Xinhua reports.

It was also reported, the summit is likely to be the first occasion to broach the divisive subject of Tony Blair's candidacy to be Europe's first president.

The topic is not formally on the agenda of a meeting that will be dominated by wrangling over climate change funding and how to get the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, to add the final signature to the reformist Lisbon treaty. But senior diplomats predicted there would be intense private discussion on the fringes of the summit over the question: who will get the plum job of first sitting president of the European council, the pre-eminent EU forum that brings leaders together for summits at least four times a year.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said today that Blair would give Europe a "strong voice" on the global stage, but his comments were seized on by his Conservative shadow, William Hague, who said the debate over the presidency proved that the UK should have held a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, reports.

Meanwhile, the race for the presidency, which is only open to former EU prime ministers and heads of state, cannot officially start until the treaty is ratified.

"The new role does not yet exist, and there is as yet no detailed job description," explained one EU official. "Furthermore, Mr Blair has not announced he is in the running."

EU leaders will today try to settle their differences on how to finance the ambitious climate change targets Europe will table at December's UN environment conference in Copenhagen, as they gather in Brussels.

Reinfeldt, meanwhile, has told all EU leaders he expects the summit to show Europe is leading in fighting climate change, reports.

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