Under-fire Merkel says European Union summit won't solve migration issue

Migrants and refugees wait to disembark from the Italian Coast Guard vessel Diciotti | Giovanni Isolino  AFP via Getty Images

Migrants and refugees wait to disembark from the Italian Coast Guard vessel Diciotti | Giovanni Isolino AFP via Getty Images

But they can not agree on how to share out those asylum seekers who make it.

"So Sunday is a first exchange with interested member states - it was open to all member states, but of course not every country is affected in the same way - no more and no less than a working and consultative meeting".

"We understand there are domestic political difficulties in some countries but that can not lead to pan-European haste", Orban said. The dispute threatens Merkel's new "grand coalition" including the SPD after just over 100 days in office and poses the most serious challenge yet to Merkel's leadership.

The arrival of more than one million people in 2015, most fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq, exposed glaring deficiencies in European Union migrant reception capacities and asylum laws.

"That is why there will be bilateral and trilateral agreements, how can we help each other - not always wait for all 28 members but think about what is important to whom", she said.

The comments came after Italy's new coalition of far-right and anti-establishment parties has made clear it does not want to take in more migrants and after several eastern European states said they would stay away from preliminary talks on the issue Sunday.

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 last Thursday.

In response, the European Union has turned increasingly restrictive on asylum and pushed to curb arrivals, a strategy denounced by rights groups.

Merkel asked for the meeting after German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer threatened a government crisis by pushing to seal the country's borders to new migrants. "The meeting on Sunday has only preparatory character", a German government source said.

Most are in coastal states of arrival like Italy and Greece, or rich destination states like Germany and Sweden, where governments have felt heat from voters over the new arrivals.

"This is about reducing the illegal migration to Europe", in addition to movement within Europe, Merkel said ahead of the meeting. His enforcement of a policy that led to children being separated from their families at the US-Mexican border was widely seen, even in his own Republican Party, as an abomination, and - after falsely accusing Democrats of being responsible for the policy - he signed an order ending the separations.

At the heart of the problem lie deep divisions over who should take responsibility for arriving migrants - often Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece and increasingly Spain - how long they should be required to accommodate them, and what should be done to help those European Union countries hardest hit.

But Hungary and Poland have refused to host any arrivals. Now backed by Austria, they want to end any further discussion on rules for sharing them out across the bloc.

Merkel opposes the idea by the CSU, which faces off against the anti-immigration AfD party in Bavaria elections in October, as it would mean rigid border controls inside Schengen.

Italy is spearheading the calls for so-called "protection centres" for asylum seekers in countries of origin and transit states, disrupting the flow to Europe.

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