Divided EU leaders meet over migration at 'mini-summit'

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has become the public face of Italy's new unbending line on migrants

Although no formal agreements were reached Sunday, ahead of a full summit on Thursday, the toughened attitudes toward migrants were on stark display.

This is anathema to the usually flexible Mrs Merkel as it would undermine her open-door migrant policy and be a major setback to the EU's Schengen free border system.

The talks were "frank and open", but "we don't have any concrete consequences or conclusions", Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

With plans to reform Europe's asylum laws bogged down, European Union leaders hope to stop migrants leaving North Africa by paying countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to hold people until their eligibility for asylum can be established.

Instead, Conte proposed creating "international protection centers" that would screen asylum requests in common countries of transit but that would not obligate the countries of first arrival.

The French president suggested that additional conditions should be attached to the granting of the EU's structural funds to guarantee the recipients take their share of asylum migrants.

Another from French President Emmanuel Macron is to establish closed camps inside Europe where migrants could await the outcome of their claims.

Meanwhile, Maltese authorities asked the Aquarius, the ship at the centre of the stand-off earlier this month, to rescue a migrant boat in distress near the Tunisian coast.

New arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Europe via the Mediterranean have dropped by more than half this year compared with the same period in 2017, according to the United Nations migration agency: 40,944 people as of Wednesday.

"That is why it is also about bilateral or trilateral agreements for mutual benefit", she added.

Amid signs of nervousness from some in the CSU over their collision course with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel sent a conciliatory message to the CSU, describing its 70-year-old alliance with her Christian Democrats (CDU) as a "bond of fate".

After hours of discussion Sunday, Merkel emerged speaking of increased "goodwill" and a good discussion, which would have been impossible given the time constraints of a normal summit.

Europe's migration crisis, which peaked with the arrival of more than 1 million asylum seekers in 2015, has been tapering off with arrivals falling to the tens of thousands so far this year.

"We all agree that we want to reduce illegal migration, that we want to protect our borders and that we are all responsible for all topics", Merkel said.

In recent days, Italy has refused to accept two migrant rescue ships.

Meanwhile, Spain's Sanchez urged his European Union partners to help Spain deal with a growing number of arrivals across the Mediterranean Sea. Spain has seen a sharp rise in migrant arrivals.

European Union leaders last December had set the end of June as a deadline to reform the rules by establishing a permanent mechanism to relocate asylum-seekers throughout the bloc. The decline is even starker compared with 2016: It equals just 19 per cent of the same period in 2016.

Chancellor for almost 13 years, Merkel needs to deliver some sort of a deal at the 28-29 June EU meeting to keep her Bavarian conservative allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), on board.

"A country like Italy has not at all the same migratory pressure as previous year".

"We know that no solution will be reached on Thursday and Friday at the level of the 28 member states. on the overall issue of migration" she told a press conference during a visit to Beirut, Lebanon.

Macron urged a European solution, "whether that is cooperation among 28 or among several countries that decide to move forward together".

Conte said his 10-point proposal would be a "paradigm shift" in how Europe approaches migration and that he was "decidedly satisfied" with the outcome of Sunday's meeting.

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