The European Parliament next meets in Strasbourg on the 13 March 2006.

The Western Balkans and the Middle East will dominate a gathering of EU foreign ministers in Brussels at the start of the week.

Ministers are set to call on Serbia and Bosnia to step up efforts to catch war crimes suspects Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.  They are also set to endorse EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak's efforts to broker agreement between Serbia and Montenegro on the rules governing an upcoming referendum on Montenegro's independence.  And they plan to urge Kosovo to shield ethnic Serb minority rights in parallel with UN-led negotiations on Kosovan independence.

The EU will also discuss how to handle Iran, which called an end to nuclear proliferation talks. The meeting is also set to cover relations with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.  Talks will be framed by a statement on the Mohammed cartoons, which have pitched western free speech values against outraged Islamic sensibility in both Europe and around the world.

The European Commission will tackle delocalisation, development aid, fiscal discipline and sexism at its weekly meeting.

President Jose Manuel Barroso will launch his new globalisation fund on Wednesday (1 March), designed to help retrain workers whose employers shift to low-cost sites in eastern Europe or Asia.

Finance commissioner Joaquin Almunia will rule on Germany and Poland's compliance with EU fiscal guidelines.

Development commissioner Louis Michel will unveil a new aid package on Thursday and social affairs boss Vladimir Spidla will push a roadmap for gender equality in Brussels on Friday before taking the issues to Ankara on Saturday.

Energy also stays high on the agenda with the upcoming Ukrainian elections threatening the fragile Russian-Ukrainian gas price deal. Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs will meet Ukraine's energy minister on Monday and Russia's energy man on Tuesday in Brussels.

Brussels also hits Slovenia this week under its "plan D" to boost public support for the European Constitution, after bruising French and Dutch referendums on the EU constitution last year.

Meanwhile bird flu continues to hang over Europe, with poultry farmers in crisis and human health fears spreading. Health commissioner Markos Kyprianou will visit Nigeria on Wednesday, where the virus has also struck, with experts fearing that a human H5N1 pandemic could first incubate in Africa.

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