BRUSSELS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) leaders gather in Brussels Thursday for a two-day spring summit in an attempt to strike a difficult balance between growth and austerity as the sovereign debt crisis across Europe is finally easing.
Meanwhile, around 10,000 protesters are expected to converge around the summit's EU headquarters venue for an "anti-austerity" demonstration, calling for an end to austerity measures and an emphasis on youth employment.
Some protesters have strung banners at the Schuman roundabout near the EU headquarters, proclaiming "Austerity Pact, No! Solidarity Pact, Yes!"
EU leaders will discuss the very real problem of growth and jobs for recessionary economies in Europe, as the debt crisis has forced EU nations to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive protests and changed political landscapes in some European countries.
The eurozone's economy fell by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter last year, registering the steepest decline since the first quarter of 2009 and more severe than expected, EU statistics office Eurostat said in February.
In a summit invitation letter, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stressed that "we must continue to pursue our efforts to maintain stability, translate all decisions taken to promote growth and competitiveness into concrete action and results, and give absolute priority to supporting youth employment."
A draft of the summit conclusions says "the stagnation of economic activity forecast for 2013 and the unacceptably high levels of unemployment emphasise how crucial it is to accelerate efforts to support growth as a matter of priority."
EU nations must continue to take actions to promote competitiveness, growth and jobs through "growth-friendly fiscal consolidation," the draft says, which implies the EU would consider easing biting austerity measures.
On the sidelines of the summit, EU leaders are expected to discuss a Cyprus bailout, though the issue is not on the official agenda.
The eurozone finance ministers will also meet on Friday following the summit to talk about a bailout plan for the tiny island, which could be reached by the end of this month.
On Friday, EU leaders will touch upon foreign issues, particulary the bloc's relations with Russia.