BRUSSELS (Reuters) -EU interior ministers gathered for an emergency meeting on Friday to try and ease resurgent tensions over illegal migration, after the fate of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean triggered harsh words between Paris and Rome.
The issue of who should take responsibility for those reaching the wealthy European Union on rickety boats to escape poverty or war has long plagued relations within the bloc.
This matter came to a head again this month as Paris and Rome clashed over France's acceptance of the Ocean Viking, a boat carrying 234 rescued migrants that Italy had turned away.
"We cannot and should not work on a crisis by crisis situation, ship by ship, incident by incident. We need one single framework based on EU law," European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said on arrival for the meeting, urging member states to approve new EU-wide legislation on immigration.
Ahead of the talks, the EU's executive Commission set out a 20-point action plan, designed to address surging migration in the central Mediterranean.
One focus of that plan was to strengthen cooperation with third countries, including steps to prevent departures from North Africa. It also aims for greater EU coordination of search and rescue, including among coastal and flag states.
Over 90,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in the 27-nation EU this year via the central Mediterranean route, such as across the sea from North Africa to Italy or Malta, a 50% increase from 2021.
"It is only as Europeans that we can tackle these very difficult questions of irregular immigration," said French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who had called for the emergency meeting after calling Italy "selfish" for not letting the Ocean Viking dock.
With immigration a tense domestic issue in both France and Italy, Darmanin said at the time that France would no longer take in some 3,000 migrants who had arrived in Italy and whom Paris had previously agreed to take in.
He said on Friday that position would not change unless all accept to do more and take in migrants.
Southern EU countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece, where most migrants arrive, say there is too much pressure on them and EU states to the north are not helping them enough.
"The issue of irregular immigration is not just for arrival countries but all of the EU," Spain's Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said.
While much of the focus is on arrival of migrants by the Mediterranean, illegal entries in the EU via the Western Balkans have also been soaring, and Schinas said the Commission would also prepare proposals on that front.
The EU's border agency, Frontex, says that migration routes through the Western Balkans have been the most active, with more than 22,000 detentions at borders there in October alone, nearly three times as many as the same month of 2021.
(Reporting by Benoit van Overstraeten and Ingrid MelanderWriting by Ingrid MelanderEditing by John Chalmers)