The emergency proposal, which comes atop another one to resettle in member states some 20,000 Syrian refugees, is in response to a surge in migrants making the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.
Both Rome and Athens, which are struggling with the wave of migrants, appealed to the 26 other EU states to share the burden.
Italy's refugee-reception facilities are stretched to breaking point with 80,000 people currently being housed in them and local authorities are growing increasingly impatient with the demand0s placed upon them.
"We... have a proposal for an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers to other European (member) states," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference.
"Syrians and Eritreans will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other European Union member states over a period of two years," he said.

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