The prime ministers of Italy and Finland stuck to their guns Wednesday as Mario Monti sought to persuade a sceptical Jyrki Katainen to embrace bolder moves to tame the eurozone debt crisis.
Monti's visit is both a bid to mend ties with an outspoken hardliner on the crisis and the latest in a series of trips to European capitals to lobby reluctant members of the single currency zone to help shore up the euro.
He was full of compliments for Katainen and Finland, calling his counterpart "one of the most interesting interlocutors" and declaring himself "an admirer of Finland."
But he did not mince words when discussing the gravity of the two-and-a-half-year crisis, which has seen Italy's borrowing costs skyrocket and raised fears the country could need a bailout, especially if Spain were to fall.
"There is no denying that the markets are largely dysfunctional," Monti told a press conference after talks here.
It would be terrible if the euro, which was meant to boost European integration, "because of the problems which are there in the real world, might become little by little the cause for division and disintegration," he said.
Monti said fears over the future of the euro were hurting Italy despite its efforts at economic reform.
"Why are we not harvesting the results (of reforms) but rather see the good efforts at least partly offset by high and rising financing costs? The main answer is that the markets fear the euro area will not survive in its current form," he said.
Katainen was also full of kind words, calling his meeting with Monti "extraordinary."
But the Finnish prime minister put his foot down on the question of using eurozone bailout funds to intervene in the secondary bond markets so as to help ease borrowing costs for weaker eurozone states.
He said going that route risked the collapse of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which is due to replace the EFSF next year.
"We are afraid that the EFSF or ESM would run out of money too soon if we started to operate in the secondary market," he said.
But he added that he was open to looking at other ways to use the funds.
"They could be used as a kind of precautionary credit line to keep the countries in the market," he said. "The mechanisms are not meant to be used only when the country has collapsed."
Monti's Finland trip comes as all eyes are on the European Central Bank, which meets Thursday after ECB chief Mario Draghi said last week promised tough action to tame the debilitating debt crisis.
Last week, Draghi boosted hopes that the ECB would reintroduce its hotly contested programme of buying bonds in the secondary market, sending the markets sharply higher and Spain's and Italy's borrowing costs sharply lower.
Draghi said the ECB was "ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro."
The EFSF rescue fund currently has a little more than 200 billion euros ($245 billion) to spend. The fund is allowed to buy public debt on the secondary market but has not yet used that power.
In an apparent swipe at Finland and the Dutch, Monti last month denounced "northern" EU states for taking positions that contributed to spikes in borrowing costs for Italy and Spain, accusing them of undermining the euro's "credibility".
Katainen for his part has said that while all eurozone members want to save the single currency, "countries and people do not trust each other as much as before."
Finland, one of the few eurozone countries that has retained a top AAA credit rating, regularly asks for collateral when heavily-indebted partners request financial assistance.
Monti is also due to meet Finland's President Sauli Niinistoe and the speaker of parliament Eero Heinaeluoma during his one-day visit.