Germany and several other nations are to discuss with Turkey ways of settling thousands of Syrian refugees ahead of the final EU summit of the year.
Those attending the meeting will discuss a proposal to resettle Syrians straight from camps in Turkey.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the driving force behind the plans, faces resistance from other EU states.
Thursday’s full EU summit in Brussels is set to focus heavily on the migrant crisis which has divided members.
Record numbers of people have arrived in Europe this year, prompting some states to build fences and introduce border controls in defiance of the EU’s border-free Schengen area.
The resettlement proposal would see EU countries accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey under a voluntary scheme.
It is hoped the plan will stop people making the dangerous sea journey to Greece and will be more palatable for EU members than obligatory quotas.
Turkey and European leaders struck a deal last month in which Ankara tries to prevent migrants leaving in exchange for financial aid and political concessions.