European Commission President José Manuel Barroso believes it is possible to give Ireland legally binding assurances over voter concerns such as abortion and neutrality.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Mr Barroso said the topic would be discussed by the heads of government at the EU Council meeting in Brussels.

Watch the full interview

Mr Barroso ruled out changing the treaty, but said he personally believed the EU should accommodate Irish concerns.

'In terms of legislation, matters regarding, for instance, abortion - these are national matters,' he said.

Asked about the issue of one commissioner per country, the EC President said: 'if this point is important for Ireland, my personal opinion is that we should accomodate Ireland.'

If such assurances could be agreed on, the next step would see the legally binding guarantees being drafted over six months by the Czech presidency.

The Government then promises to hold a referendum by the end of the term of this Commission, which would normally the end of next October.

Under the agreement, all states would firstly agree that if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, they will use its provision to ensure every country keeps a permanent commissioner.

Under the treaty as it stands, only two-thirds of member states would be allowed to appoint a commissioner.

The French proposal is that in return for keeping a permanent Commissioner and getting a set of legally binding guarantees on issues like tax, abortion and workers rights, the Irish Government will commit to holding a second referendum on Lisbon by the end of next October.

Climate dispute

While talk of second Lisbon referendum by next October has taken much of the sting out of other key items on the agenda, EU leaders are also seeking to agree on a number of other issues.

The two-day gathering is seen by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a chance to put the seal on a tumultuous six-month stint at the bloc's helm.

However rifts over the climate and economic rescue packages still threaten to mar the gathering, with Germany at the forefront of the dissent.

In an interview published as leaders began arriving at the EU headquarters, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck criticised the idea of 'tossing around billions' of euro, in particular savaging a recent package by Britain.

Germany, the continent's biggest economy, is under pressure to contribute more to a European stimulus plan that would see some €200bn pumped into the European economy.

But as it slid into recession in the last quarter, Germany is uneasy about pumping so much taxpayer money into the economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also made clear she would block the climate package at the summit if it would 'endanger jobs or investments'.

Italy, Poland and former Soviet bloc countries, heavily reliant on high-polluting coal for their energy, have also voiced strong objections to the current climate package.

To help broker a deal, the French EU presidency offered last-minute concessions to Poland and Romania, offering them more free carbon dioxide emissions.

Elsewhere, Libertas has announced it will contest the European elections in 2009 on a pan-European basis.

Speaking at a press conference, Libertas chairman Declan Ganley said: ‘If people want a strong and healthy Europe that is democratic and answerable to them, they should vote for a Libertas candidate.’ `

He said that a policy document will be published in the coming months and candidates' names will be unveiled over a similar time frame.