Sarkozy said he was now campaigning to unblock the impasse of what to do with the constitution - notably on getting EU leaders to accept a scaled-back, simplified EU treaty passed, and doing away with the current draft constitution.

 

"We need to move forward and a simplified treaty is the way forward ... Europe cannot remain at a standstill, we cannot remain in this relative paralysis ... we have to find a way out of this impasse," he said.

 

The EU constitution was to have streamlined how the bloc makes decisions and bolster its role on the world stage.

 

Growing consensus

 

Sarkozy held talks with Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
 
"We seem to be making headway on the way to a simplified treaty," to replace the stalled EU constitution, Sarkozy said.
 
The constitution needs the backing of all 27 EU nations for it to be ratified. French and Dutch voters rejected it two years ago.

 

Some EU nations, such as France, Britain and the Netherlands are now keen to drop more contentious parts of the draft - its name, the post of an EU foreign minister and officially designated anthem and flag - to play down public fears that a constitution would take away powers from national capitals and create a European superstate.

 

Barroso agreed that a "consensus is forming around" a toned-down EU treaty to replace the draft constitution.

 

Sarkozy's visit to Brussels was only his second trip abroad as president - and was seen as a signal that the new French leader plans to take a more hands-on approach to France's European policy than Chirac did during his 12 years in office.

 

French officials said Sarkozy wants a "simplified" treaty to replace the current constitution, doing away with notions that the existing charter is a "solemn text", as a way to avoid the need for new referendums.