The Week in Brussels

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This is going to be a week of high international diplomacy in Brussels and beyond. Which is probably a good thing, because the agenda of Jose Manuel Barroso's European Commission is still looking a little sparse.

One of the set-pieces of the week is Wednesday's EU-China summit in The Hague. China would like the event to end Europe's 15 year-long arms embargo on Beijing. However, there is no immediate prospect of such a turn of events.

The EU has yet to agree among itself on a replacement set of controls on arms exports to Beijing, and it still wants a gesture by China on human rights.

In addition, the summit comes to close to both last month's US presidential election and next Saturday's Taiwanese legislative race for a big pro-China move by the EU to be politically possible.

On the same day, Colin Powell, the departing US Secretary of State, will address the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Centre on ?world affairs? in the 21st century. Mr Powell is preparing the way for an expected Brussels trip by George W. Bush in February next year, when the US president will be paying visits to both Nato and the EU.

The drive is an attempt at ?outreach? towards Europe after Mr Bush's re-election and the splits over the Iraq war.

In preparation, Mr Powell will be attending a Nato ministerial meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, which will also include representatives of Mediterranean countries. He will attend a meeting with EU officials in The Hague on Friday.

Meanwhile the European Commission plans to unveil a series of ?action plans? with neighbouring countries including Ukraine on Thursday.

On Friday, Commissioner Margot Wallstrom will present results of the Eurobaromter poll on public opinion in the EU.

But, all the while, one of the biggest political stories is occurring under the surface. EU leaders are busy negotiating with each other ahead of a December 16-17 summit expected to give the green light for membership talks with Turkey. Their decision then will be one of the biggest steps the EU has taken for decades not merely of the month ahead.

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