Ireland counting on EU summit to break Lisbon Treaty impasse

Berlin  - Ireland hopes next week's European Union summit will help break the impasse arising from Irish voters' rejection of the EU reform treaty, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen indicated Wednesday.

"The situation we face represents a considerable challenge for Europe," Cowen said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ahead of talks between the two leaders in Berlin.

"I'm hopeful we can identify the elements of an acceptable way forward next week," he said, adding: "Any way forward must naturally respond to the concerns of the Irish public which led to the rejection of the treaty in the referendum last June."

The Lisbon Treaty, which aimed to streamline decision-making in the 27-nation bloc, cannot enter force until all member states have ratified it. Apart from Ireland, the Czech Republic is the only member not to have endorsed it.

"We are very conscious that a solution must be acceptable to the colleague member states who have expressed their desire to see the Lisbon Treaty enter into force a soon as possible," Cowen said.

Merkel, who helped draw up the treaty, said: "Our goal is to find a solution together with Ireland."

The Irish government is not planning to make any decisions on a new referendum on the treaty until after the Brussels summit December 11-12, Cowen stated during a visit to Finland last week.

The current French presidency of the EU wants an agreement that Lisbon Treaty should come into force by 2010. (dpa)