The EU-Africa summit is being billed as the launch-pad for a new era.
Up to 80 states are attending the EU Africa summit
A "partnership between equals" is to replace the old pattern of donor states scattering their wealth among developing countries.
These are the issues on the agenda:
A main aim of the summit is to stem the flow of illegal migrants and instead encourage legitimate migration.
Several thousand illegal migrants die every year trying to travel to Europe by sea, although the numbers making the perilous journey have fallen this year because of joint air and sea patrols, carried out by EU member states.
The European Commission has said it wants to attract 20 million workers from outside the EU over the next 20 years, and it is promoting the idea of a "blue card" work permit to attract highly skilled workers.
In March 2008, the EU hopes to open an office in Mali whose job initially will be to warn of the dangers and disappointments involved in illegal migration but aims eventually to recruit workers.
The EU is expected to agree to work towards full integration of migrants in their new countries of residence and to provide help in developing their countries of origin.
The EU is Africa's biggest trading partner but Chinese investment and influence in Africa are growing fast.
The EU is keen to use this summit to inject new momentum in its trade with Africa, with the promise of a more equal partnership.
China has imported a third of its oil needs from Africa, but in return has poured money into infrastructure projects, from railways in Gabon to roads in Democratic Republic of Congo and schools and hospitals in Angola.
EU EXPORTS TO AFRICA
EU exports to Africa have increased by 26bn euro since 2000 to 92bn euro
Biggest EU exporter: France 21bn euro (23%)
Biggest African importer from EU: South Africa 20bn euro (22%)
European funds are linked to adherence to human rights and good governance. African states are attracted to Chinese money because it tends to come without strings.
In a draft agreement prepared for the summit, the EU offers to share its experience in helping to improve regional integration in Africa, as a means of contributing to development, economic growth and eradicating poverty.
In the words of the EU's development commissioner, Louis Michel, Europeans must now clearly understand that Africa is no longer Europe's private hunting ground.
AFRICA EXPORTS TO EU
African exports to EU have increased by 41bn euro since 2000 to 126bn euro
Biggest EU importer: Italy 31bn euro (25%)
Biggest source of African exports to EU: Libya 26bn euro (21%)
Gone are the old colonial ties to Europe and with them the preferential trade deals enjoyed by African states. In their place, under WTO rules, the EU and Africa are having to agree Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by the end of the year.
Only 13 African nations have so far done so, and many others fear the free-market nature of the EPAs will lead to domestic markets being flooded with lower-cost European goods.
Ghana and Ivory Coast complain their revenues will be hit by the loss of duties imposed on imports from the EU.
Another source of anger for African states is that the EU has chosen to sign the deals country by country, raising suggestions of a divide and rule policy.
The EPAs may not be on the agenda, but Senegal (which is refusing to sign one) has promised to bring them up if no one else does.
PEACE AND SECURITY
The declaration that completes the Lisbon summit is likely to include a package to help the African Union intervene or prevent future conflicts. But the record of both the EU and the African Union (AU) so far in resolving African conflicts is poor.
One region, Darfur, sums up by the inability of both the African Union (AU) and the international community to respond swiftly to four years of conflict.
An international peacekeeping force of 26,000 led by the AU and the United Nations is well behind schedule and has not yet replaced the existing contingent of 7,000 poorly-equipped AU troops.
The EU too has struggled to follow through on a commitment to send a 3,500-strong force to Chad's border with Darfur to protect 500,000 civilians displaced by the fighting.
The French-led force was due to be deployed in November but has so far failed to get off the ground. It lacks basic resources such as helicopters, planes and a field hospital and rebel forces in Chad have threatened to attack.
The build-up to the summit has been overshadowed by Robert Mugabe's attendance, and there have been claims that the organisers have had to water down a commitment to human rights.
A similar summit planned in 2003 was scrapped because of the prospect of Mr Mugabe's presence and most EU leaders decided that far too much was at stake for that to happen again.
Nevertheless, Mr Mugabe and all the other African leaders are being asked to endorse a commitment to the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The partnership accord covers the fight against corruption and fraud, global governance and reform of the security sector.
President Bashir of Sudan is also attending the summit and he may baulk at the idea of agreeing that the establishment of the International Criminal Court is important for peace and justice.
The agenda has not impressed a group of African and European writers, ranging from the South African, Nadine Gordimer, and the Nigerian Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, to the Czech president, Vaclav Havel.
They are upset that Zimbabwe and the Sudanese region of Darfur are not high up on the agenda and accuse the organisers of "political cowardice".
While China has helped finance major infrastructure projects in a number of African states, it has not linked its investment to any push for social development.
The Lisbon declaration will, in contrast, focus on the Millennium Development Goals. Set out by the UN, these include commitments to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of HIV/Aids and provide primary education for all children by 2015.
The UN has already made it clear that sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to meet any of the goals and aid organisations are concerned that the EU has become pre-occupied with trade rather than development.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has repeated the commitment of member states to increase the proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) they contribute to development aid to 0.56% in 2010 and then 0.7% in 2015.
Climate change is widely considered to be among the most serious threats to African stability in the next few years, in the form of floods and droughts and their effects on food security and water management.
One ambitious project under discussion at the summit is said to involve establishing a "green wall" around the Sahara desert. That would take the form of large dams, water collection areas and tree-planting.
The declaration is likely to include EU support for early weather warning systems and tackling illegal logging.
There are also plans for an Africa-EU energy partnership to promote access to efficient energy services and renewable sources.