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Germany

Schröder, Prodi Voice Optimism on EU Constitution

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and European Commission President Romano Prodi have expressed hope that a European constitution could be agreed on before Ireland's presidential term expires on June 30. "We have both elaborated a strategy to help Ireland by whatever means reach a conclusion to the constitutional process," Prodi told a news conference in Berlin. Negotiations on a draft constitution presented at the last EU summit in December stalled when Poland and Spain refused to compromise on the issue of voting weights in the Council of Ministers. They want to stick to voting arrangements agreed at Nice in 2000, which give Poland and Spain almost as many votes as the four largest EU nations. Schröder said he was optimistic that the impasse could be overcome because of the Irish presidency's "first-class work." However Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern was more reserved in his comments a day earlier, when he said that work on the constitution was unlikely to resume after the March 25-26 EU summit in Brussels. "We can't make that call until we have realistic proposals that we think would get broad agreement," he said.