Stronger economic governance in the eurozone will be the focus of leaders' discussions on 8-9 December in Brussels – alongside energy and the prospect of new countries joining the EU.
EU leaders will review the overall economic situation in Europe and measures to boost growth and jobs.
They will consider proposals to monitor draft budgets and cut deficits for all eurozone countries – with even tighter economic and budget surveillance for countries facing serious financial instability or needing bail-outs.
Leaders will also examine the potential benefits of joint eurozone bonds, for instance whether they would help reduce and stabilise the interest rates countries have to pay to borrow money.
The Commission has put forward 3 options for these so-called stability bonds , with an analysis of financial and legal implications. An amendment to the EU's Lisbon Treaty – which governs how the Union functions – might be required.
Safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy is high on this European Council's agenda.
Leaders will consider energy-saving and efficiency measures that would set legally binding requirements for EU countries to improve energy efficiency at all stages – production, distribution and final consumption.
This would provide significant financial, economic and employment benefits – and help consumers reduce their energy bills.
EU leaders have also called for a single energy market by 2014, enabling energy to be bought and sold more freely across national borders. An open market with smart, integrated infrastructure would be more competitive.
New EU members
Also on the table is the possibility of admitting new countries into the EU, a plus for the Union's strategic interest, security and prosperity. The Commission has recommended that negotiations be opened with Montenegro. It has also proposed granting EU candidate status – the first step in the process – to Serbia.
Meanwhile, Croatia is in the final stages of becoming the EU's 28th member. The EU concluded negotiations in June, paving the way for the signature of the accession treaty on 9 December.
Croatia will soon hold a referendum to decide if the country will join the EU on 1 July 2013.