In a sign of the growing tensions within the EU, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Saturday that countries who refused to pull their weight on accepting asylum seekers should have their EU benefits cut. We'll see each other Thursday", he said.Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron held out little hope they would be able to gather all 28 nations behind a single immigration plan at the upcoming summit.Merkel, who is battling a domestic political crisis with her coalition partners over migration, said she was seeking "bilateral and trilateral" deals to cope with short-term migration pressures.European Union nations, she said, have to see "how can we help each other without always having to wait for all 28, but by thinking what's important to whom."The idea of pre-screening Europe-bound asylum-seekers in North Africa gained support from several leaders amid the escalating tensions that threaten to undermine European Union cohesion.Paradoxically, the EU's immigration policies are receiving renewed attention as the number of newcomers reaching Europe has dropped significantly.The U.N.'s refugee agency forecasts that around 80,000 people will arrive to Europe by sea in 2018 if current trends continue - but the EU's political turmoil over the topic has soared.Anti-migrant parties - and governments in Hungary and Italy - have been fomenting public fears of foreigners and have won support doing so."Some are trying to use the situation in Europe to create political tension and to play with fear", French President Emmanuel Macron said".
Germany is hesitant to accept more immigrants as people are becoming increasingly tired of the recent influx. Rome on Sunday separately criticised Malta for refusing to take in a rescue ship with over 230 migrants.
But Italy's Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said his country had faced 650,000 arrivals by sea over the past four years, 430,000 asylum requests and the hosting of 170,000 "alleged refugees" for an overall cost of more than $5.8bn.
Merkel, who is battling a domestic political crisis with her coalition partners over migration, said she was seeking "bilateral and trilateral" deals to cope with short-term migration pressures.
The four former communist states, who have ducked out of Sunday's talks, have always been opposed to taking in migrants.
Macron blamed political posturing more than the actual migration situation for the current uproar in Europe, saying that "we are living through a political crisis more than a migratory crisis today".
Since assuming office several weeks ago, Italy's new government has refused to admit foreign-flagged rescue ships packed with hundreds of migrants.
Earlier this month, Rome rejected the Aquarius ship carrying 630 migrants, forcing it to eventually dock in Spain.
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.
Merkel has been badly weakened in recent weeks by an anti-migration rebellion in her conservative coalition, making her more vulnerable than at any other point in her almost 13 years in office.
If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants and refugees, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.
Migrants mostly stay in arrival countries like Greece and Italy or wealthy Germany where they try start a new life.
"Our top priority, if we want to save free movement within the Schengen area, is to ensure real, strict controls of the EU's external borders", Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Officials warn that a new surge of migrants could trigger the collapse of free travel within the European Union, its signature achievement.
Macron said European cooperation had managed to cut migration flows by nearly 80 percent and problems stemmed from "secondary" movements of migrants within Europe. The leaders are also to discuss proposals for centres in countries outside the bloc to separate genuine war refugees from economic migrants, who can then be sent home.