The European Commision President, Jose-Manuel Barroso, has called for a short period of reflection to consider the implications of the rejection of the EU Constitution in France and the Netherlands. However, he also said that abandoning the EU constitution project remained a possibility.

He was speaking after a special meeting of the Forum on Europe in Dublin's Mansion House.

Mr Barroso said that to ignore the referendum results would simply re-enforce the view that Europe was an elite project that paid little regard to the views of its own citizens.   

The time had come to listen to their views, he said. He called for a period of reflection to allow the rebuilding of 'the contract between the EU and its citizens'.

Speaking later at a news conference, Mr Barroso said abandoning the EU Constitution project remained a possibility, as did altering it or asking the Dutch and French to vote again.    

He also maintained that a deal on the EU budget was possible during the British presidency, although he admitted that would be difficult.   

Responding to criticism of his performance in recent controversies, Mr Barroso said that Europe was often a scapegoat for a lack of leadership at national level. 

It was not possible, as he put it, for leaders to criticise Europe on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then ask their people to support it on Sunday. 

Britain to take EU reins tomorrow

Meanwhile, as Britain prepares to take over the EU presidency tomorrow, the Blair administration has published its priorities for the next six months.

Britain has pledged to work hard to resolve EU divisions over Europe's future finances.

However, those negotiations look set to be overshadowed by Mr Blair's insistence that any finance deal must include wholesale reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.