French president backs sanctions on European Union states refusing migrants

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Nobody at the summit accepted Merkel's proposal that willing member states form separate agreements where EU-wide consensus isn't possible, instead insisting on a European solution, according to an EU government official familiar with the discussion.

The threat of collapse still loomed over Germany's three-month old coalition government on Wednesday after crisis talks into the early hours failed to resolve a row over immigration between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Bavarian allies. Merkel, chancellor for almost 13 years, could also lose support in her own CDU.

Officials warn that a new surge of migrants could trigger the collapse of free travel within the European Union, its signature achievement.

The 10-point plan by his new populist government also revives ideas proposed by previous Italian governments, such as calling on all European Union member states to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, and countries being docked European Union funds if they refuse to take in refugees.

The informal summit, convened by European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker, is expected to lay the groundwork for the formal one slated for June 28-29, when the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) will feature prominently on the agenda.

The discussion, noted Macron, ruled out "solutions that are not consistent with our values or worldwide rights", such as pushing back refugees.

Italy's new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, leads a coalition in which an anti-immigrant party has dominated the debate.

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".

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.

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French President Emmanuel Macron says that France and Spain want arriving migrants in Europe to be quickly placed in "closed centres" so authorities can decide whether they're eligible to apply for asylum.

Under its new anti-migrant government, Italy has refused to let humanitarian aid boats dock in Italian ports, arguing that they are only encouraging smugglers in North Africa.

After turning away the Aquarius, which later docked in Spain, Rome vowed Saturday to block the Lifeline, a German charity vessel with more than 230 people aboard.

Its stance has raised tension both with Germany and within Merkel's coalition government, with European Union diplomats saying the mini-summit is to help "save" the chancellor.

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.

Her hardline interior minister Horst Seehofer has given her until the end of June to find a European deal to curb new arrivals.

Italy has in turn accused France of hypocrisy, noting that Paris keeps pushing migrants back across their shared border.

Chancellor for almost 13 years, Merkel needs to deliver some sort of a deal at the 28-29 June EU meeting to keep her Bavarian conservative allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), on board.

But while the number of migrants reaching Europe is far lower than in 2015 and 2016, at the height of the Syrian civil war, the politics of migration have become ever more poisonous, with right-wing and populist governments in Italy, Austria and Central Europe all pressing for better controls, along with surging populist parties like the Alternative for Germany.

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