That would signify an important change as bank aid would no longer threaten to push countries into a full bailout, as Ireland was forced to seek.
But implementation is the sticking point, with many governments reluctant to cede more power to Brussels.
Britain and other non-euro states worry that the proposed European single bank regulator will override their national jurisdiction.
There are also serious differences over some of the June summit commitments, especially on the role the ESM can play in dealing with banks that some states -- Ireland and Spain, for example -- have already bailed out.
Officials accordingly are playing down expectations over this summit, describing it as a stock-taking exercise before a November meeting on the EU's 2014-2020 budget and then a December make-or-break summit on commitments to strengthen economic and monetary union.
The opening exchanges suggest the discussions will be tough, with decisions likely to be sent back to officials for more work.
Greece meanwhile suffered its fourth general strike of the year on Thursday that severely disrupted transport and highlighted again popular outrage at the tough austerity measures it agreed in return for bailouts.
Unions said they will not tolerate a third straight year of cuts to wages, pensions and benefits while unemployment soars to 25 percent.
The news on Spain was mixed. Figures Thursday showing that bad loans held by Spanish banks soared to a record high in August were a reminder that the problem will not go away without action.
At the same time, Spain appears finally to be ready to seek a limited bailout using the ESM which would in turn allow the European Central Bank (ECB) to intervene on public debt markets, pushing down borrowing costs for Madrid.