The Franco-German meeting in Meseberg near Berlin was meant to firm up proposals for integrating the countries using the euro currency.
But as it comes at a time of continent-wide political crisis over migration, French politicians were sounding alarm bells to stop the EU from falling apart.
“Europe is facing an existential threat, and that’s why we have to react right now,” said former French economy minister and current European economy commissioner Pierre Moscovici ahead of the meeting.
“We have to make progress towards a stronger Eurozone, even if it doesn’t match our ambitions, and a much more consistent migration policy. If we fail, we send a message of weakness, and we leave the door open for the populists and nationalists.”
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to set up a common eurozone budget and investment fund modelled on the International Monetary Fund in order to avoid debt crises like the one in Greece.
But Germany is reluctant about the proposals, mainly out of fears its taxpayers will foot the bill for saving weaker economies.
“Germany is basically in favour of risk reduction, making each country solid, stable and subject to market discipline,” says Francesco Saraceno, deputy department director at the French Economic Observatory.
“France seems to lean more towards the idea that whatever market discipline you impose, there will be part of the risk that needs to be absorbed by risk sharing and solidarity between countries.”
And with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government at risk of collapsing due to an internal rebellion over migration policy, it is not likely France and Germany will be coming to the EU calling for radical reform.
“The risk is they will have some fiscal capacity as France demands, but this fiscal capacity will not really be used and useable to actually dampen asymmetric shocks but be something more symbolic.”
Whatever compromise they reach, Merkel and Macron will go into the 28-29 June EU summit as pro-European leaders in an increasingly anti-European landscape.
Both face opposition from nationalist forces at home and in the governments of Italy, Austria and the Visegrad group of Eastern European countries.
While there appears to be no proposal that will shake up the summit the same way a German-proposed relocation scheme for asylum seekers did three years ago, the divisions are even more pronounced now.
“There is a new populist government in Italy doing everything within its means to try and stop migrants from reaching its shores, and they’re aided and abetted by Sebastian Kurz in Austria and the Eastern countries,” says John Springford, is deputy director of the London-based think tank the Centre for European Reform
“So [the summit] is not likely to be as fractious, but it is similar to the summit where the relocation mechanism was agreed.”