Leaders of the Mediterranean countries where most migrants enter the EU and register say that is unfair and want the burden for taking them in spread among member states
Resistance has been led by Italy’s new anti-establishment government which is bent on overhauling European EU budgets and immigration policy.
Italy has started turning away ships with migrants rescued at sea and wants to drop rules stipulating that the first EU country of arrival is responsible for any given person.
Rome wants “international protection centres” created to screen asylum requests in transit countries such as Libya. It has suggested countries that refuse to take in new arrivals should receive less EU money – a proposal opposed by the ex-Communist states of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic which do not want more migrants.
No breakthrough was found at an emergency meeting of 16 EU states on Sunday. A solution looks even less likely when all 28 national states meet in Brussels.
“To be honest, it looks very difficult to reach a solution at this European Council (EU summit),” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said last week.
Underlining the pressure European governments face over immigration, Swedish right-wing leader Jimmie Akesson, who party is benefiting from an anti-immigration backlash, reminded Lofven that immigration “remains the most important issue for voters.”
The divisions over immigration have also affected other areas of cooperation, including talks on the bloc’s seven-year budget from 2021.
Merkel said on Sunday she would seek deals on migration with separate EU states as she could “not always wait for all 28 members”. But a spokesman said on Monday she sill hoped for agreement on a European level.
Agreement at the summit is expected to be limited to a deal to spend more money on Syrian refugees who reach Turkey and setting up centres outside the EU to decide on asylum requests and send back those whose cases fail.
The CSU, which faces a challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in elections in Bavaria in October, will meet on July 1 to decide its next steps.
Turning back migrants would mean rigid border controls inside Schengen and have a knock-on effect on other EU states, hitting cross-border business and travel. If borders inside the Schengen area are reinstated, it would be seen as a big setback in many EU states.
An opinion poll published in Germany on Sunday showed the dispute was weakening support for Merkel’s coalition and pushed the anti-immigration the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to its highest ratings.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Simon Johnson in Stockholm and Crispian Balmer in Rome, Editing by Timothy Heritage)