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European Union leaders are gathering in Brussels for a summit focused on economic competitiveness, but concerns over the crisis in the Middle East are overshadowing the agenda. Tensions escalated after an Israeli airstrike hit the Iranian consulate in Damascus, followed by an Iranian attack on Israeli soil. The EU and the US are vowing to tighten sanctions on Iran while urging Israel to avoid further escalation. The meeting in Brussels, originally planned to focus on economics, will now include discussions on foreign policy, addressing issues in Israel, Iran, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Ukraine, and relations with Turkey.

Lebanon, with its fragile government, financial troubles, and sectarian divisions, is a source of concern due to its vulnerability to Iranian influence. Diplomats are worried about the potential for Lebanon to be drawn into the conflict, leading to a migration crisis towards European shores. Cyprus has already seen a significant increase in arrivals, prompting the EU to express commitment to Lebanon’s stability and support for the vulnerable population in the country. The EU is also calling for ceasefire in Gaza, release of hostages held by Hamas, and provision of humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

The summit will address EU-Turkey relations, acknowledging the strategic importance of the partnership despite tensions over sanctions evasion, democratic issues, and an ongoing dispute with Cyprus. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to speak virtually at the summit, criticizing the West for failing to protect Ukrainian skies from Russian strikes. He highlighted the need for consistent support in combating terror threats, emphasizing the importance of international collaboration in ensuring security. The summit’s focus on international affairs on Wednesday will shift to economic competitiveness discussions on Thursday.

On Thursday, the summit will shift focus to economic competitiveness, with a report by former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta outlining recommendations to strengthen the single market and address competition from the United States and China. The report aims to deepen market integration and enhance competitiveness to keep pace with global rivals. The EU’s economic strategy will be a key topic of discussion, with leaders expected to explore ways to boost growth, innovation, and productivity in the face of global economic challenges. The summit will aim to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure the EU remains competitive in a rapidly evolving global market landscape.

Overall, the EU summit in Brussels will address a range of pressing issues, from the crisis in the Middle East to economic competitiveness and global security concerns. Leaders will engage in discussions on foreign policy, emphasizing the importance of stability, security, and cooperation in addressing international challenges. The summit will provide a platform for dialogue on key regional and global issues, with a focus on finding solutions and fostering collaboration among EU member states. As leaders gather to navigate these complex issues, the outcome of the summit will shape the EU’s approach to critical challenges and opportunities in the months ahead.

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