European Union foreign ministers met informally in Brussels this evening to air differences over some of the key reforms the 15-nation bloc hopes to agree at a landmark summit later this week in the French resort of Nice. At Nice, which starts on Thursday, the EU will try to seal a package of reforms aimed at speeding up decision-making and preparing the bloc to admit a dozen new members, mostly from former communist countries in central and eastern Europe.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, briefing reporters during a break in the talks, said that there was a strong desire among all member states to make Nice a success but said that hard negotiations lay ahead. Mr Vedrine said that a "certain tension" in EU capitals ahead of the summit was natural but added that things had “settled down a little”.