The EU-US summit will take the form of a two-hour meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
Upon the insistence of the US, the meeting will be held on the sidelines of a NATO summit in the Portuguese capital, where the ongoing Afghan war is expected to top the agenda.
"We elegantly and graciously accepted to have [the EU-US summit] in Lisbon because the US insisted," an EU diplomat said.
Indeed, the European Union was keen to see the summit take place, even in a short format, rather than see it cancelled by the United States, which happened last May (see 'Background').
G20 and climate change
EU leaders are expected to concentrate on areas where the transatlantic allies can have a greater impact on world affairs, diplomats said. In the short time available, two "shared objectives" are expected to dominate the meeting.
First, the two partners are keen to exchange information on the political constraints under which each side is operating. From the EU side, Obama will be asked about his foreign policy ambitions after the setback he suffered in the November mid-term elections.
"You have to go to all the misunderstandings before you go to the understandings," the EU diplomat said.
The second objective was to identify "more win-wins in the transatlantic dimension," which are currently not fully exploited, the diplomat added.
The three leaders are also expected to touch upon the multilateral context, following the recent G20 meeting in Seoul, the NATO meeting the day before, and the Cancún climate change summit a few days later. The questions to be addressed are how the transatlantic allies could better address rebuilding the global economy, meeting the climate change challenge and boosting global security.
"The G20 meeting was interesting not only because of the few things which happened, but by the many things which didn't happen. Leaders may wish to compare notes and discuss how they can push the agenda further," the EU diplomat said.
Regarding the Cancún summit, he explained that EU wanted to know "where the Americans stand, how far they can go, with what state of mind they are going to Cancún".
Economic and energy issues
On Friday, the EU-US Energy Council will take place, with the participation of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger.
In this format, the EU and the US are expected to explore what things could be done together in fields such as green technology, green standards, green norms and green jobs.
"If Europeans and Americans want to remain in the lead in terms of developing alternative energies, developing common standards, common norms, climate-related technologies, they need to cooperate. It's not an easy game to play, because regulators on each side always say their system is best," diplomats explained.
The EU and the US teams are also expected to explore ways to give life to the Transatlantic Economic Council, which was created under the Bush administration but has not been very active. Here again, each side is expected to try to better involve and integrate national regulators in bilateral contacts.
Both the US and the EU are eager to engage in deeper cooperation in the fields of cyber and network security. The EU-US summit is expected to decide to establish a working group on a bilateral basis.