The weeks starts with a meeting between EU agriculture ministers on Monday. At the meeting, commission officials will brief agriculture ministers on the market situation and possible support measures for EU poultry farmers hit by bird flu, following dramatic declines in bird meat sales in several EU member states. Further reforms of the European common agriculture policy (CAP) and sustainable development are also on the schedule of ministers, while the commission is expected to brief agriculture ministers on the on-going WTO round on free trade.
Also on Monday, EU foreign ministers will gather for a general affairs and external relations council in Brussels, with ministers set to prepare EU leaders' meeting in Brussels later in the week.

External relations issues include the situation in Belarus after the 19 March presidential election, the Western Balkans, Iran, Iraq and the Doha world trade negotiations. At the margin of the council, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner will meet Lebanese prime minister Foaud Siniora to discuss EU-Lebanese relations and the implementation of the European neighbourhood policy action plan in the country.

Romanian ministers will also be present at the council for EU-Romania association council. Romanian officials see the meeting as an important opportunity to take stock of Romania's progress in preparing for EU membership.

In the European Parliament, trade commissioner Peter Mandelson will on Monday report to the parliament’s trade committee on the negotiations with China on the footwear market.  A commission plan to impose import duties on shoes from China and Vietnam is set to dominate the debate.

On Tuesday, the parliament's negotiating team meets with representatives from the Austrian presidency and the commission for further discussions on the 2007-2013 financial perspective, adopted by EU leaders after troublesome negotiations in December, but yet to be approved by MEPs.

The parliament's temporary committee investigating alleged illegal renditions of prisoners by the CIA will on Tuesday hear journalists from American daily New York Times and Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera.

EU industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen will on Wednesday together with employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla present a communication on "corporate social responsibility", focusing on how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impact in the way it operates.

Also on Wednesday, transport commissioner Jacques Barrot will present the EU's blacklist of unsafe airlines after the commission's weekly meeting.

The summit between EU heads of state and government on Thursday and Friday is the union's yearly spring economic meeting.  Leaders are due to focus on the annual review of the strategy for growth and jobs that the union laid down at Lisbon in March 2000, and which was re-launched last spring.

But following this winter's gas crisis with Russia and a recent publication of a commission green paper on how to tackle EU dependency on third countries for its energy supply, this year's spring summit will have a special focus on energy. Observers have noted that the debate on "economic patriotism" could cause a rift at the summit, with Spain, France and Poland under fire for fencing off their national "strategic" industries in energy and other fields.

The prime ministers of Spain and Portugal, Jose Luis Zapatero and Jose Socrates, will use the opportunity of being in Brussels for celebrating the entry of their countries into the then European Community 20 years ago.


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