The European Union's executive put forward options Wednesday to spread refugees more evenly across member states, after the bloc's asylum system broke down under the strain of last year's migration surge into Europe.

But any efforts to change the current rules are likely to run into opposition, notably in Central European member states, which have resisted efforts for them to take in a greater share of refugees.

"The current system is not sustainable," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday, adding that the existing rules "have placed too much responsibility on just a few member states."

Under the EU's so-called Dublin rules, asylum seekers must register their claim in the first member state they reach, and that country decides on their request.

For most of the more than 1 million people reaching the bloc last year, this would have been Greece. But the country was overwhelmed by the arrivals, letting many of them continue unchecked towards wealthy northern European states such as Germany and Sweden.

The commission outlined two options Wednesday to reform the Dublin system. The initial aim is to trigger debate among member states, with legislative proposals to follow in the coming months.

One option would involve tweaking the existing Dublin rules, while the second, more controversial approach foresees a fundamental change to the EU's asylum system.

Under the first alternative, the Dublin system would be fitted out with a "corrective fairness mechanism" that would be triggered by a mass inflow of asylum seekers into a given member state. A share of them would then be reallocated across the EU.

Under the second option, all asylum seekers entering the EU would be assigned to member states according to a distribution key that takes into account the country's size, wealth and capacity to absorb them. Factors such as family links would also be taken into account.

Either system would provide "much-needed solidarity between member states in managing our collective responsibility to protect those in need," Timmermans said.

The commission suggested that asylum requests could eventually be processed at an EU level, for example by the European Asylum Support Office.

"But in political terms, it is not realistic to talk about this today," Timmermans noted.

Any move to shift asylum decisions away from national capitals is likely to face strong resistance, as the issue is highly sensitive and has triggered a populist backlash in several member states.

A one-off decision last year to redistribute up to 160,000 asylum seekers across the EU, taking them out of countries such as Greece and Italy, has barely had an impact. Just over 1,100 people have been relocated under the scheme.

Europe's migration surge has also fed into security concerns, with indications that terrorists may have infiltrated last year's flows into Europe.

The EU's executive on Wednesday laid out easier ways of sharing data on people crossing the bloc's frontiers among border, police and judicial authorities across member states. The commission has pledged that the new measures would respect fundamental rights and data protection rules.

"Terrorist attacks on our soil have shown the threat to our security, at the same time as we face a migratory crisis of unprecedented proportions," said Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. "Information-sharing is at the nexus of both," he added.

The commission further proposed an automated EU entry and exit system to register arrivals and departures, process visas and identify overstayers. Unmanned self-service kiosks could speed up border procedures.

The proposal will require the approval of EU governments and lawmakers.

In the coming months, the commission is also due to present legislation aimed at improving legal migration channels into the EU for asylum seekers and skilled workers.

Meanwhile, it has sought to tighten rules on who can claim protection in the bloc.

In September, the commission proposed an EU list of safe countries whose nationals cannot request asylum in the bloc, including Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

But the EU Fundamental Rights Agency said Wednesday that the proposal raises a number of possible concerns about the protection of asylum seekers' rights.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.