The week in Brussels

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Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner, is in China this week for a series of meetings with senior officials and to give a speech examining the impact of the country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. As with every western trade official’s visit to China, there is no shortage of topics for debate.

Primarily, Mr Mandelson will seek to sound out his Chinese interlocutors on the state of play in the Doha round of world trade talks. Almost five years since the current round was launched, the goal of a new multilateral agreement to cut tariffs and ease the flow of goods and services across the globe is still far off.

Many blame the EU’s stance on farm trade for the impasse, but Mr Mandelson will also urge China to offer more sweeping commitments on industrial tariffs in order to achieve a deal. Brussels is also concerned about the weak protection of intellectual property rights in the Chinese market - a subject that was bluntly raised by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on her recent trip to Beijing.

On Wednesday, European Union finance ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss their response to the growing problem of VAT fraud, which is estimated to cost the region?s governments at least €60bn every year. Countries such as Germany, Austria and Britain have already taken measures to combat the fraudsters, and today the European Commission will present a paper aimed at developing a pan-European policy.

Also on Wednesday, the European Commission will publish its Green Paper on maritime policy. The consultative document will map out the Commission’s thinking on how to create an integrated approach combining EU policies on shipping, coastal tourism, alternative energies, fisheries and marine research. It will be presented by José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, and Joe Borg, the commissioner for fisheries and maritime affairs.

The same day, senior EU officials and national ministers will meet with Opec representatives for the third EU-Opec Energy Dialogue. Nigeria’s oil minister and the current Opec president, Edmund Daukoru will lead the oil cartel’s delegation.

On Thursday, the Commission will provide further details of its much-criticised plan to set up a European Institute of Technology - an elite research institution modelled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brussels intends to propose legislation later this year that will enable the body to start working.

With only weeks to go before the summer holiday season, the Commission will on Friday turn its attention to bathing water. Every year, the Brussels bureaucrats examine the water quality at thousands of European beaches, and highlight the best and worst performers. Holidaymakers will undoubtedly take note.

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