President Donald Tusk said on Friday that the EU was closer to finding a compromise over the bloc's top jobs but an immediate breakthrough should not be expected ahead of a crunch Brussels summit.
EU leaders will meet on Sunday to thrash out a deal over the team that will guide the bloc for the next five years after a summit on Friday collapsed without an agreement.
Tusk said he would continue talks with top EU leaders including from France and Germany on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Osaka and was still negotiating behind the scenes with 12 or 13 phone calls to other EU players.
What I feel is that we are closer to the solution but still too far to say something more concrete today, said Tusk.
Don't expect white smoke here in Osaka, he added, in reference to the selection of the pope and quipping: For one thing, smoking is forbidden everywhere here.
I don't know how you will survive, Jean-Claude, he added, referring to president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, known as a heavy smoker.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted earlier this week the process was very complicated.
She said could not say whether the Spitzenkandidat - or lead candidate principle under which the top-performing party in European elections gets first dibs for top jobs - would succeed.
The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) - the political movement backed by Merkel -- came out on top in last month's vote, though with a historically low share of the vote.
But the EPP's lead candidate, Manfred Weber, is thought to lack the clout and gravitas to become head of the European Commission and has run into opposition from French President Emmanuel Macron, among others.