The foreign ministers of the European Union's six founding member states were meeting outside Berlin on Saturday to discuss a reform initiative in response to Britain's decision to leave the bloc.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was hosting his counterparts from France, Italy and the Benelux countries to discuss reforms that would allow more resistent EU capitals to carve out a looser relationship to Brussels.
"This is a situation that allows for neither hysteria nor paralysis," Steinmeier said before entering the talks. "After the British decision, we must not allow ourselves to slip into depression or inaction."
He added that he wanted to send the message that "we won't let this Europe be taken away from us."
Initiated by Germany and France, the reform effort is intended to prevent countries with strong eurosceptic movements such as France and the Netherlands from holding votes similar to Britain's in-out referendum, in which 52 per cent voted to leave.
In an apparent reference to the reform initiative, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that "Europe is varied" and so are "expectations from the EU."
The meeting - which is taking place in the Villa Borsig, the Foreign Ministry's guest house outside Berlin - has been criticized by those who argue that any attempt at reform should involve all 27 remaining member states.
West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg established the European Economic Community in 1957, the forerunner for today's EU.
EU leaders have called on Britain - the first sovereign country to vote to leave - not to delay exit negotiations to avoid prolonged uncertainty in the markets.
Merkel is hosting EU President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday, the eve of a two-day EU leaders summit in Brussels.