Cameron's first European summit
David Cameron worked his European audience at his first summit. There were lots of smiles and handshakes. He used words like "positive", "engaged" and "activist" to
describe his approach to Europe. The European Commission went out of its way to welcome him, laying on a traditional British breakfast. On occasions the British prime minister seemed bemused as he met leaders he scarcely knew.
The British strategy is to make friends and win allies early on, knowing that tougher battles lie ahead. He also wanted, however, to give an early indication that he was on guard against Brussels grabbing more power. Under one plan to stimulate growth and jobs, targets were set for education. David Cameron was quick to point out that education was a responsibility of member states.
At his final press conference his tone hardened. He spoke of "red lines". "Our bottom line, our red line if you like," he said, "is that I do not support and will not support the transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels. We are not in the euro, we're not going to join the euro." Three times he chose to make that point.
Mr Cameron is aware that there are many people who voted for him because they thought he would take a tougher line with Brussels. So he was speaking to different audiences. However, the new British government's instinct is to be pragmatic and to avoid unnecessary rows with its European partners.
The British are against the idea of general sanctions being applied to those countries who do not abide by the rules over debt. Their view is that sanctions should apply only to those countries in the eurozone. They got some support from President Sarkozy, who accepted that some countries like Britain and Denmark were in a different position.
Chancellor Merkel said "we have agreed that we want a system of taxes and levies for financial institutions to reach a fair burden-sharing". It may be difficult agreeing the terms of a levy. The British support a bank levy, but they do not think it should be managed at a pan-European level.
The 27 leaders who turned up in Brussels had crisis on their minds. So much so that the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, quipped that 10.30 had come and there was no new crisis.
The EU is bubbling with ideas on how to protect the troubled euro. Some are still proposals and fundamental disagreements remain.
Rather belatedly the European Union has agreed to back more stress tests of major banks and to publish the results. This is crucial if investors are to be persuaded the eurozone is a safe bet. Germany has been reluctant to open the books but the head of the Bundesbank, Axel Weber, said a new set of European bank stress tests was now needed.
Europe's leaders also agreed broad guidelines for tougher budget rules to ensure countries met their debt targets. There is still no agreement on what sanctions, if any, will be used to keep countries in line. The Germans had suggested that rule-breakers might lose their voting rights, but that would involve treaty changes and there is little enthusiasm for that. The view is that it would open up a whole seam of controversy.
The leaders signed up to a closer co-ordination of their budget policies but it is unclear how far they will actually co-ordinate their tax and spending.
The assumptions underlying budget plans would be submitted to the EU executive for peer review before being revealed to national parliaments.
So the trend is towards deepening policy co-ordination, but there is no agreement as to how to go about it. The tougher budget rules will not be set out in a firm proposal until October. Again there is wide support for tighter financial regulation, but no agreement on the details.
Almost certainly for the British government battles lie ahead, for many EU officials believe the lesson of the eurozone crisis is closer integration.