German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Brussels armed with a fresh demand that eastern European Union countries accept refugees and ended up sparking criticism from western allies in the bloc.

At her first EU summit since striking a German coalition agreement, Merkel touted the idea of tying generous European regional-development aid for nations such as Poland to their willingness to help house migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The proposal from the biggest contributor to the EU budget managed to rile easterners and prompted warnings from Luxembourg and Austria about a backlash against Europe. Even the commission, the EU's executive body, was wary, seeing it as widening the existing rift between east and west.

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