An Italian plan to curb migration inflows from North Africa was expected to top the agenda of a Thursday meeting in Rome between Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Record arrivals of migrants and refugees are creating rifts within the European Union, and putting a strain on its passport-free Schengen area. Austria, for example, is considering reintroducing border checks at the Italian border, prompting Rome outrage.
In a recent dossier called "Migration compact," the Italian government has called on the EU to offer African countries money to tighten border controls, emulating a controversial deal the bloc has signed with Turkey.
Renzi is keen to win Merkel's support for the plan, as she is the leader of the most influential member of the EU.
However, the two leaders do not see eye to eye on funding issues: Rome has suggested that migration aid to Africa could be financed by EU bond issuances, but Berlin has ruled that out and Renzi has urged Germany to come up with alternatives.
The two leaders were also due to discuss EU economic issues, amid calls from Rome to further relax austerity policies. The European Commission is scheduled later this month to say whether Italy's financial law for 2016 falls foul of budget discipline targets.
Merkel was travelling to Rome to take part in a Friday ceremony for the awarding of Germany's famed Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis, given to public figures in recognition of contribution to European unity.
EU leaders were also scheduled to attend. Later on Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Martin Schulz were set to take part in a debate with Renzi on the future of the EU.