Merkel downplays prospect of Brussels breakthrough on migration

GETTYGiuseppe Conte threatened not to attend the mini EU summit this weekend

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon June 22, 2018. But such "secondary movements" are hard to stop in the border-free Schengen zone, and have been widespread since immigration to Europe peaked in 2015, when more than a million people arrived from the Middle East and Africa.

Plans for Sunday's emergency European Union meeting, aimed at preparing for a full European Union summit from June 28-29, were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy's new prime minister said a draft accord on migration had been withdrawn due to a clash with Merkel.

They will endorse further tightening of their external borders and giving more money to foreign countries to prevent people from setting sail for Europe.

"But we will always have legitimate asylum seekers who are entitled to our help".

Divisions in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc have weakened public support for her "grand coalition" and pushed the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to its highest ratings, a poll published on Sunday showed.

But she is unable to break the reluctance of the easterners.

"It is also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit", she said. No country has so far agreed to host any screening centers, according to the EU's top migration official.

Since 2015, migration has decided elections across the bloc from Italy to Hungary, with voters favoring a tougher stance. Earlier this week, a meeting between Germany's Seehofer and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz produced an agreement to create an "axis", not so much, as Kurz put it, "of the willing", but of those states - including Germany, Italy and Austria - unwilling to accept more migrants.

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Malta's premier is telling a German aid group to reroute its rescue ship away from the Mediterranean island to avoid further escalation of another European standoff over helping migrants.

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.

Ireland has been notably more sympathetic than most to the plight of Syrian refugees (though substantial minorities there worry about strains on health and welfare systems).

They are considering setting up centers overseas to decide on asylum requests there and send back those whose cases fail. "And we can't agree how to divide the responsibility of caring for them". Four countries in Eastern Europe - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - have refused to attend and reject taking in migrants in general.

This has long caused bad blood between European Union states and weakened their trust in one another.

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.

Encouraged by a deal with Turkey that has slashed the number of people arriving from there by 97 percent since 2015, the European Union appeared ready to greenlight plans to set up screening centers in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

In an interview with Spiegel magazine, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini gave a foretaste of the challenge Merkel faces in clinching a deal: "In a year it will be decided if a united Europe still exists or not".

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