18 December 2014
Last updated at 00:05
Jean-Claude Juncker says the EU – struggling for growth – is in the “last chance saloon”
EU leaders are heading for a Brussels summit to discuss an ambitious investment plan to help revive growth.
The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, wants to generate €315bn (£250bn; $392bn) of private investment for infrastructure projects.
Russia is also on the agenda of the two-day summit, with possible further EU sanctions under discussion.
A BBC correspondent says new sanctions are likely to be limited in scope, but would signal EU firmness on Ukraine.
The sanctions are likely to ban EU investment and finance in Crimea – which was annexed by Russia in March – and would target Russian oil and gas exploration in the Black Sea.
The EU and US have ratcheted up sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian forces reject rule by Kiev.
UK government officials say the UK supports Mr Juncker’s investment plan, but Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to suggest other ways of boosting the EU’s economy.
EU officials say the plan has broad support, although many details are still to be discussed. They want the legislative framework for the new investment fund to be ready in June.
The fund will be managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB), which aims to provide guarantees for private investors.
Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be chairing his first EU summit, as European Council President.
Across the EU there is a need for better transport and energy links, as well as improvements to schools, hospitals and broadband.
A €1.3 trillion package of potential projects has already been submitted by the 28 member states – but some will not be eligible.
A project must be a public-private partnership, not one that is 100% publicly funded.
The European Commission says investments on the scale envisaged could create up to 1.3m new jobs in the EU.
However, with budget deficits still weighing heavily on the EU the case for spending on big projects may prove a hard sell in European capitals.