Barely 24 hours passed between the Europe speeches of Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday in Toulon and Angela Merkel's on Friday before the Bundestag.
However, in many respects they appeared poles apart on how to solve the debt crisis as key differences remain over the role of the European Central Bank and the details of 'fiscal union', report EurActiv.fr in Paris and EurActiv.de in Berlin.
The Franco-German proposals are expected to include tougher budget discipline rules and could include bolder plans, like the creation of a European Monetary Fund, pushed by the French leader.
But differences were apparent in the two leaders' speeches last week, with Merkel arguing for stronger enforcement of fiscal discipline, led by European institutions and the Court of Justice, and Sarkozy arguing for an intergovernmental approach that sidelines the Brussels bureaucracy.
'Europe on autopilot'
Sarkozy's speech in Toulon, lasting almost 50 minutes, appeared like a campaign speech in which the French president defended his record of four and half years in power.
Rekindling with his party's Gaullist tradition of a 'Europe of Nations', Sarkozy reaffirmed the principle of an intergovernmental Europe largely run by the member states. "European integration will go the inter-governmental way because Europe will have to make strategic choices, political choices," he said.
Sarkozy called for increased use of qualified majority voting (QMV) by national ministers within the eurozone.
"Europe needs more democracy. ... A more democratic Europe is a Europe where it is the [national] political leaders who decide," he said.
This vision pits France against the EU's supranational institutions, including the Parliament, Commission and Court of Justice.
Without explicitly naming it, Sarkozy appeared to criticise the European Commission, saying: "A Europe on autopilot, which only blindly applies the rules of competition and free trade, is a Europe which cannot tackle crises."
Instead, Sarkozy argued for the continued leadership of national governments around France and Germany. "France and Germany united means the whole of Europe is united and strong," he said.
Germany favours legalistic course
In her speech before the Bundestag, Merkel placed her faith in the EU's highest court based in Luxembourg. "The German government believes that there needs to the possibility of going before the Court of Justice in case of rule-breaking," Merkel said.
Merkel rejected the immediate introduction of Eurobonds to mutualise European debt and said it was a possibility once if an effective fiscal union should come into force. At the same time, she again rejected the possibility of massive intervention by the European Central Bank to support the sovereign bond markets, saying its role should be limited to fighting inflation.
"The European Central Bank has a different task from that of the US Fed or the Bank of England," she said.
Sarkozy, who has long been fighting to increase the ECB's role, somehow accepted this, saying: "Unwavering solidarity is not possible without strict discipline".
But he also wants to take Europe's solidarity efforts further by establishing a European Monetary Fund which, he said, "will mobilise resources to provide a bulwark against speculation and...decide by qualified majority."
Paris would like the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which will enter into force in 2013, to directly refinance itself with the ECB, a proposal already rejected by Merkel.
'Merkozy' the source of crisis?
Both Sarkozy and Merkel appeared to sideline the European Parliament, the EU's only directly elected institution, in both treaty change and fiscal enforcement.
At a debate on Friday (December 2) in the Parliament, Belgian MEP and Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt criticised both leaders and suggested Franco-German discord, not the current policies of indebted governments, was the primary cause of the current crisis.
"Sarkozy refuses to accept fiscal union with its implications of a transfer of sovereignty to a collective and objective judge of sound budgetary policy such as the European Commission or European Court of Justice," he said.
Verhofstadt went on to accuse the German chancellor of inconsistency and prevarication saying: "Merkel calls one week for closer political union and the next she blocks proposals that go in this direction such as a common European redemption fund to reduce excessive debt, proposed by her own council of economic advisors."