European Union leaders will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday in Brussels to discuss disputes over migration with the aim to prepare the ground for a formal European Union summit at the end of next week.
The number of people arriving in Europe has dropped significantly this year - the UN's refugee agency forecasts around 80,000 people will enter by sea in 2018 if current trends continue - but the EU's political turmoil over the topic has soared.
The political stakes are indeed high across the 28-member bloc where anti-migrant sentiment has catapulted populists to power in Italy, Austria and Hungary, and helped shape the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
This is a blow for the chancellor who had promised her Bavarian allies that she would seek to overcome any stalemate in the European Union with bilateral deals.
Plans to set up migrant reception centers in Albania are also under discussion. He mentioned Libya - the main jumping off point for countries bound for Europe - other African countries and the Balkans.
The prime ministers of Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg also backed the idea of outsourcing the effort to tame migration, although they emphasised the need to respect worldwide law.
The idea builds on current projects in Libya and Niger where refugees are either being resettled or sent home under the auspices of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
With such reform elusive, Merkel is now pushing for bilateral, trilateral and multilateral deals.
"It's not the first time.they have picked up migrants two or three times before in recent years", he told AFP.
Echoing Merkel, he also raised the prospect of some member states acting alone, if it proved impossible to find agreement between all 28. France's Macron also supported the idea of members acting in smaller groups. At the summit Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte supported France's suggestion to issue sanctions against countries rejecting their quotas of immigrants.
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In what was billed as a rare "informal meeting" of leaders under the auspices of the European Commission, the new Italian prime minister, Guiseppe Conte, representing his new anti-immigration populist government, presented a plan that would upend the regulations now governing migrants and asylum-seekers.
His appeal came as migration tensions surged on the Mediterranean itself.
A migrant, who is part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, is helped by a rescuer after arriving on a rescue boat at the port of Malaga, Spain June 22, 2018. Proactiva Open Arms tweeted on Sunday that Italy is seeking to have the Libyan coast guard force them back to North Africa.
He said migrant rescue ships could "forget about" docking at Italian ports.
By Friday, hardline Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was again demanding that Malta, the EU's smallest country, allow a rescue ship carrying hundreds of migrants to land because it was in the island's waters.
If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.
Sunday, June 24, in Brussels will host an informal summit of several European Union countries, dedicated to solving the problem of refugees.
Another gleeful onlooker, Christian Lindner of the Free Democrats, pointed to Merkel's "dramatic loss of authority", while also accusing the CSU of "holding hostage an entire continent". Sanchez said his government is talking with France and Italy about other boats Italy won't accept.
As with everything linked to migration in Europe, even the meeting in Brussels has not pleased everybody.