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Merkel signals EU summit on refugee policy once ministers finish negotiations

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said an EU summit on refugee policy has to wait until EU interior ministers have completed their negotiations. She made the comments after meeting Danish premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that Europe's leaders "stood ready to meet for a summit if necessary," and that it could take place in the coming weeks, but she also said that "a summit of heads of states and government must be able to make certain decisions."

Merkel said the European Union (EU) interior ministers meeting this weekend would be looking into "rapid changes to the asylum system." She made the comments after meeting Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (photo) in Berlin on Friday.

Decisive action, Merkel said, was only possible once interior ministers and the EU Commission completed their negotiations on the issue. Only then would a meeting at the highest level be called.

Merkel said she was confident an

accord could be reached at EU level

, as Germany and France were already pushing a common agenda.

Under the two countries' plans,

EU registration centers

would be set up in Italy and Greece - where most refugees to Europe arrive. The centers would help process applications for asylum in the EU more efficiently.

The chancellor said Greece and Italy needed to be supported with "European-wide personnel." She said the two countries also needed assurances that migrants would then be distributed around Europe.

Denmark policy

Rasmussen, who has been heading a center-right minority government since June, said Europe needed to reduce the number of economic refugees. The EU needed to work with the countries refugees came from, to create economic growth and political stability, so those fleeing wars and other violence could be offered refuge faster.

"It is not fair that Germany and a handful of other member states receive the vast majority while others receive none, but a fair burden sharing is not a solution in itself," Rasmussen told reporters in Berlin on Friday afternoon.

"We also need to reduce the numbers of migrants that arrive in Europe to be able to welcome those refugees who have a real need for protection," he added, stressing that a "long-term solution" must be found.

On Wednesday, the Danish parliament approved a bill that will see benefits for asylum seekers cut nearly in half to deter migrants. Compared with other European countries, however, asylum seekers will still receive ample financial assistance.

Denmark negotiated several opt-outs from EU law after the 1992 Maastricht treaty was narrowly rejected in a referendum. They include asylum policy, which is why Denmark would not participate directly in a potential EU-wide policy.

ng/jm (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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