Italy is seeking new rules for NGOs who rescue migrants at sea.
It comes after last week’s threat to shut its ports to foreign humanitarian vessels.
The government says it has been struggling to cope.
The European Commission backs Italy’s call for a code of conduct for those organisations.
The announcement was made by the EU executive, as well as the Italian, German and French interior ministers.
“NGOs are playing a very important role in saving lives, but as we understand we have to coordinate our cooperation. We are on the same side, we both want to provide our help to these desperate people,” said EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
“But at the same time, and that’s the second point, we have to step up our efforts to return people, especially the ones who are not in need of international protection”.
EU interior ministers will discuss the proposal at an informing meeting in Tallinn, Estonia on Thursday.
More than 80,000 people have reached Italy by sea so far this year, UN figures say, an increase of one-fifth year-on-year for the same period in 2016.
“(Italy) is asking for a European burden share that is needed if Europe wants to abide by its own values, its own history and its own civilisation,” said Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister.
The country is close to Libya, making it an obvious choice of destination for migrants hoping to reach European shores.
The UN estimates more than 2,000 people have died making the crossing.