Merkels hopes of completing EU jigsaw rise

Brussels, May 30 | Updated: May 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
One by one, the pieces of Angela Merkel's European treaty jigsaw puzzle are slotting into place three weeks before a decisive summit for the EU's future.

The German chancellor is being deliberately coy about her chances of clinching a political deal in Brussels on June 21-22 to reform the European Union's creaking institutions, replacing the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

A senior German official last week put the prospects of success at less than 50%, but one EU ambassador said the political stars were suddenly aligned for a deal.

"Impatience for a solution is mounting: there is a feeling it is both urgent and possible," he said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is convinced Merkel is well on the way to a deal with crucial help from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who wants a simplified treaty containing key reforms, to be ratified by parliament.

"Today we can see that a consensus is forming around this idea," Barroso said after meeting Sarkozy last week. Under the emerging accord, the EU would get the long-term president and foreign minister -- although most likely with a different title -- provided by the constitution.