German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked EU leaders on Sunday to stop asylum seekers moving freely around the bloc during emergency talks on migration, an issue that is threatening her ruling coalition.
Heads of government meeting in Brussels are trying to bridge their deep divisions over migration, which has been undermining the European Union for years and is now putting a strain on Merkel’s coalition.
“One large part of today’s discussions will be protecting the outside borders and how we reduce illegal migration to Europe,” Merkel said on arriving for the talks bringing together 16 of 28 EU national leaders. “There will also be a discussion about secondary migration, how do we treat each other fairly inside (the free-travel zone of) Schengen, how can we find a reasonable balance,” she added.
Although arrivals across the Mediterranean are only a fraction of what they were in 2015, when more than a million people reached Europe, a recent opinion poll showed migration was the top concern for the EU’s 500 million citizens.
Italy has long struggled to cope with arrivals and its new populist government has said it would reject any ideas that would see it handle even more people.
“We want to tackle the problem in a structural way. Our public opinion is asking for this,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said when arriving for the talks, adding he would propose his new ideas on migration. Under heavy pressure from voters at home, EU leaders have been fighting bitter battles over how to share out asylum seekers in the bloc.