GERHARD SCHRoDER, the German Chancellor, stepped up pressure for a quick end to the European Union's paralysis yesterday, saying that his shuttle diplomacy had achieved agreement on the need for a speedy replacement for Jacques Santer, the outgoing European Commission president.

Mr Schroder, who held two sets of talks in Brussels after spending the morning in Paris, is seeking to cut through political and legal obstacles to asolution before next week's Berlin summit.

Romano Prodi, the former Italian premier, remains thefavourite for the presidency. He endeared himself to European leaders by achieving the near-miracle of meeting the economic targets to qualify Italy for the euro. He also has the dubious distinction of being backed for the job by Mr Santer.

Other candidates include the prime ministers Wim Kok of the Netherlands and Antonio Guterres of Portugal. Javier Solana, Secretary-General of Nato, is another contender.