Angela Merkel urges EU members to show willingness to compromise on constitution

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged all EU members to show willingness to compromise on the future of the constitution at a upcoming summit.

Merkel spoke before a meeting with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, whose country's objections to proposed changes in the EU voting system are a major obstacle to a deal at the summit in Brussels next Thursday and Friday.

Merkel, whose country holds the EU presidency, wants to launch new talks with clear instructions on how to revise the draft constitution and have it ready before the next European elections in 2009.

Merkel and Kaczynski smiled and shook hands for photographers before their talks at a government guest house in Meseberg, outside Berlin, but made no comment.

"For (the timetable) to be agreed on, readiness to compromise on the part of everyone will be necessary," Merkel said earlier Saturday in her weekly video podcast. "We are working on it and thank many member states for pursuing the same goal."

"I hope we succeed in agreeing on this timetable next week and laying a foundation to get a renewed treaty, with which Europe will recover its ability to act," she said.

Merkel said Europeans expect leaders to address their problems, ensure prosperity and growth and make sure Europe speaks together in helping solve international issues.

"We need a new contractual basis for this, but we also must not devote our attention to ourselves for too long," she said.

Merkel hopes EU members can agree on a scaled-down version of the draft constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, and has tried to narrow the debate to a few key issues. She hopes to keep hard-won agreements that make it easier for the EU to make decisions without needing unanimity.

Polish objections have become a major stumbling block, with Warsaw threatening to veto a deal on the charter's future because of changes to the voting system that it argues would seriously cut its power.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that any decision at the summit will need to be made unanimously.

"That means that Poland's demand to arrange voting weights differently than has been agreed would have to win the approval of all 27 member states," he was quoted as saying in the daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

"I see that as not very likely," he said, adding that "as far as voting weights are concerned, no one other than Poland wants to reopen the package."

The head of the EU's executive Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, cautioned against "reopening the package of institutional reforms that we already agreed on that would not be helpful."

"All political interests are carefully balanced in it," Barroso was quoted as telling German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, noting that Poland, under a previous government, agreed to the draft.

"We cannot go back to the beginning of the discussion every time just because there is a new government in one European country," he was quoted as saying.

EU foreign ministers will gather for special talks on the stalled EU charter on Sunday in Luxembourg in a pre-summit bid by German officials to narrow differences. Steinmeier will chair the evening talks.

Merkel also will travel to Luxembourg Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.