Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, arranged for the meeting next Wednesday (23 May) as a way of satisfying François Hollande, who was elected as president of France on a pro-growth programme that criticised the EU's fiscal compact.
But Greece is now likely to dominate discussions, with the political and economic crisis there worsening dramatically in the aftermath of inconclusive elections on 6 May. Karolos Papoulias, the president of Greece, announced yesterday (15 May) that attempts to convince the warring political parties to agree to a technocratic government had failed. New elections are being called for June, with the exact date to be announced today (16 May).
Opinion polls suggest that the elections will not deliver a majority in favour of the country's €130 billion bail-out package and the austerity conditions attached to it but will increase the strength of those opposed to a bail-out.
As he left a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels yesterday,
Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's finance minister, said: “If Greece wants to stay in the euro then they have to accept the conditions.
“Otherwise it isn't possible. No responsible candidate can hide that from the electorate.”
“We need a government that's capable of making decisions,” he added.
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said yesterday that she hoped Greece would not leave the euro, but added, “We have to be technically prepared for anything.”
One EU official said that the issue of Greece would have to be “parked” because the prime minister who will attend the dinner next week would be there only in a caretaker capacity.
But the EU leaders will still be preoccupied with whether or not they can insulate the rest of the eurozone from the consequences of Greece leaving.
The official said that some of the “nasty scenarios” being considered if Greece failed to honour the terms of its bail-out would probably be discussed by leaders at the dinner.
EU diplomats said that the official agenda would continue to focus on growth. The aim of the meeting would be to discuss a range of options for boosting growth and to see where a consensus could be built for a formal agreement on measures to be taken at the regular European Council meeting scheduled for 28-29 June.
Yesterday, the outgoing government of technocratic Prime Minister Lucas Papademos decided to pay back in full holders of a €430 million bond maturing that day. The investors in that bond had refused to participate in Greece's €177bn debt restructuring earlier this year.
The decision may irritate creditors who had participated in the restructuring, taking a 75% loss. But the holdout bondholders had threatened to take legal action unless they were paid in full.
? Growth in the eurozone is at a standstill, according to figures released yesterday.
Germany's growth in the first quarter of 2012 was higher than predicted, up 0.5% from the previous quarter, while other eurozone economies stagnated or shrank.
But Italy's gross domestic product shrank by 0.8% in the first quarter – the biggest drop in three years and worse than expected.
France's GDP stayed flat, while the Dutch economy was down 0.2%.
The GDP of the EU's 27 member states grew 0.1%.