Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that he hopes Ireland can return to the bond markets in late 2012, and that steps toward any changes to EU treaties would be very challenging.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Kenny said the Government was absolutely determined to continue with reforms.

Mr Kenny said that Mrs Merkel had told him that treaty change would mean a change in oversight of national budgets, but with some flexibility for individual budget strategy.

He said economically Ireland has always complied with the conditions of membership of the EU and it has never broken the growth and stability pact rules.

He also said there is clearly a disparity between the attitude of countries towards fiscal responsibility and fiscal discipline.

Ms Merkel said that Ireland was an example of how to reform.

She said that Germany believed that treaty changes would be needed to win back market confidence, and that Germany was therefore willing to give up some national sovereignty.

She added that treaty change was required to allow member states to be brought before the European Court of Justice for breaching the Stability and Growth Pact.

Ms Merkel said she did not see the possibility in EU rules of the European Central Bank solving the eurozone crisis.

Mr Kenny said that any moves to change EU treaties in order to deepen economic governance at a eurozone level would be very challenging for the Irish government.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Ms Merkel, Mr Kenny said that discussions on the issue had been "frank", while Mrs Merkel insisted that Germany wanted clear but limited treaty change to prevent a repeat of the Greek debt crisis.

The German Chancellor also praised Ireland for meeting its targets under the bailout programme, adding that she was aware what it meant for the people of Ireland.

Without specifying, Ms Merkel said Germany would give every possible support it could to Ireland until, as she put it, the country got back on its feet.

Afterwards, addressing the Konrad Adenauer foundation, a political think tank associated with Ms Merkel's CDU party, Mr Kenny said that the existing EU bailout mechanism, the EFSF, had failed to attract investor confidence.

He said that as a result the ECB should now be used to provide the "unlimited firepower" to prevent financial panic from spreading.

The visit is seen as an unrivalled opportunity for the Government to win political support on Ireland's future debt burden from the country at the heart of long-term decision making on Europe's future.