Mediterranean leaders say European Union citizens should have their say

Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni embraces French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of a news conference at Chigi palace in Rome Italy

Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni embraces French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of a news conference at Chigi palace in Rome Italy

Leaders from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece and Cyprus met over dinner in Rome on Wednesday night to craft common strategy ahead of full European Union meetings later this year.

The European Union should consult with its citizens on the future of the European bloc, and this exercise should involve a wide array of people, including those who disagree with how the EU is being led, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

France's President Emmanuel Macron also slammed the "inconsistencies" in Europe's Dublin asylum rules.

Some 119,000 people landed in Italy past year, down 35 percent on 2016.

For Italy, 2017 was a turning point: the country went from large-scale arrivals in the first six months to a sharp drop-off, thanks to controversial agreements in Libya.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni boasted of the "encouraging results in the control of (migrant) flows and the fight against human trafficking" and urged Europe to make sure the results would "now be consolidated".

Some 119,000 people landed in Italy previous year, down 35 percent on 2016.

In Greece, an accord struck between the European Union and Turkey limited the number of arrivals to 28,800 - six times fewer than in 2016 - but it did not solve the problem of caring for those who had already made the journey.

Between 90 and 100 migrants were missing after their makeshift boat sank off Libya, the country's navy said late Tuesday.

Participants also renewed appeals for the European Union to provide more help addressing the migrant crisis.

But from overcrowded reception centres on Greek islands to packed boats heading for Spain, the hottest topic is bound to be migrants. Greek authorities have been finding it hard to process over 50,000 migrants, while Italy's last official statistics showed almost 200,000 migrants living in reception centers.

He was attending the fourth Summit for Southern EU Leaders, which was held in Rome.

Some 10,000 refugees are expected to follow in 2018, Minniti said - provided they are spread across the EU.