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Photograph: EPA/MICHAEL KAPPELER

Europe will be defined for years to come by its management of the refugee crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, noting that its status as a "rich continent" means it must rise to the challenge in unison.

The chancellor was speaking ahead of a two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels, where she will seek to secure backing for her ambitious plan to stem the influx of refugees into Europe with the help of Turkey.

Merkel has resisted national solutions demanded by her domestic critics, such as stepping up border controls or placing caps on the number of new arrivals, which reached 1 million in 2015.

Speaking in parliament, Merkel said that visa-free travel within the Schengen zone can only survive with the reform of the so-called Dublin rules, which make the first European country in which a refugee arrives responsible for his or her asylum claim.

Europe needs a deal with Turkey so that NATO can act to stamp out illegal migration to Europe through human traffickers, the chancellor added.

"We need access to all areas of the Turkish territorial waters," Merkel said, so that NATO can carry out its mission in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

Turkey's request to restart negotiations on European Union membership in exchange for cooperation in the refugee crisis "should not surprise anyone" and there should be a "balancing of interests according to our values," Merkel said.

Merkel's insistence on a European solution, which rests on the tentative Turkey deal to take back all refugee arrivals in Greece in exchange for money and visa-free travel to Europe, comes as the chancellor's Christian Democrats (CDU) saw losses across three state elections on Sunday.

The chancellor is due to address her critics later on Wednesday, when she meets with leaders of her CDU and the party's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CDU), who this week called for a stop to refugees entering Germany.

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