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EU Leaders Say Constitution Deal Now Possible

Ahern: 'We're closing in on an agreement' (file photo) 17 June 2004 -- Leaders of the 25-member European Union are apparently approaching an agreement on a first constitution for the bloc.

In remarks made after the first session of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, French President Jacques Chirac said negotiations have "reached a point where an accord is entirely possible."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, said European leaders are "closing in on an agreement."

"Much of the discussion today focused on institutional matters: voting, the [European] Commission [and the] Parliament. As you would expect there are different points of view, but I think we're closing in on an agreement [on an acceptable draft constitution]," Ahern said.

The constitution is designed to make the EU run more smoothly after its recent expansion from 15 to 25 members by extending the number of decisions taken by majority voting rather than by unanimity.

But Poland and some other countries have opposed the voting rights issue, arguing that the current draft gives too much power to larger states like France or Germany.

Newcomer Poland also insists that a reference to Europe's Christian heritage be included in any EU constitution.