EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday where they will grapple with disagreements over tackling global warming and the future of bloc leadership, including an EU president.
What kind of president the bloc wants will be debated over the next two days
Debates over money for the global warming fight, a future EU president and foreign policy chief and the Lisbon Treaty will top the agenda as European leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day meeting.
EU officials are hoping they will be able to move forward with some structural changes in the bloc tied to the Lisbon Treaty. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, the only EU leader whose county has not signed the treaty, gave a "guarantee" on Wednesday that he will sign the document, which seeks to streamline decision-making in the 27-member bloc and gives the posts of president and foreign policy chief enhanced powers.
Klaus is still no EU fan, but he says he'll sign the treaty
Klaus has insisted on an opt-out clause for the Czech Republic, similar to exemptions to some EU rules secured by Poland and Britain.
EU leaders are not expected to name a president at this meeting, although the talks will determine what kind of person they would like for the job and could favor one or another of those being considered.
"If you want someone who can represent the EU effectively at major summits, someone who can open doors in the major capitals of the world, I think there is only one candidate. If you just want someone to chair summits, there could be many candidates," a European diplomat told Reuters.
Blair waiting in wings?
That "one" candidate would be Tony Blair, former British prime minister and the most high-profile individual being talked about for the job. But Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, has also signaled he would run if asked.
While Britain's current prime minister, Gordon Brown, has said he would support a Blair candidacy, some EU states still harbor ill will against Blair for his unwavering support for the US-led Iraq war.
The next EU president?
Others say the EU president should come from one of the countries that use the euro, although that suggestion sparked a strong rebuttal from the UK, which called it an "unprecedented and divisive change in policy."
On Wednesday, Latvia said its prime minister will push the country's former head of state, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, for the top EU post. Vike-Freiberga steered her country into the EU and was a staunch supporter of Washington's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other names include the Dutch prime minister, as well as the former prime ministers of Finland and Belgium.
Observers say much depends on the preferences of France and Germany. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is said to back Blair although he has concerns about Britain's not using the euro. Germany's Angela Merkel has yet to name a favorite.
A contentious debate under discussion is fulfilling a pledge to find 15 billion euros ($22.5 billion) a year from 2013 to help developing countries fight climate change.
Current EU president Sweden is anxious to secure the pledge, whose support has split into three groups.
Angela Merkel with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is pushing hard for an EU climate cash deal
Britain is among those who are willing to commit to funding, while a wait-and-see bloc is headed by Germany. Eastern European nations, headed by Poland, only want to help "based on their means," according to diplomats.
The struggling economies in eastern Europe have made leaders there nervous about committing substantial funds.
Summit chairman Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, has appealed to his EU counterparts to compromise on a climate aid figure. He said it was key to breaking a deadlock before a major UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December.
On and off the list
Angela Merkel, fresh from being sworn in for her second term as German chancellor, will be at the meeting. It will also be the EU summit debut of Guido Westerwelle, Germany's new foreign minister.
However, one noted absence will be Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who has been beset by sex, corruption and media intimidation scandals at home. While he is key in obtaining a consensus on the EU president question, he will sit the summit out, or rather spend it in bed.
However, it has nothing to do with the sex scandals that are daily fodder for the Italian press. Rather, the 73-year-old is said to have contracted scarlet fever from a grandchild and be too ill to come.
Editor: Nancy Isenson