Germany, the Netherlands and Austria are among a group of European Union member states discussing the creation of a camp for rejected asylum seekers in a country on the continent but outside the EU.

“I’m optimistic,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told local media, adding he hoped a pilot project could pave the way for an improved European asylum system.

“Based on my discussions with other European leaders – and the dialogue that is going on at official level – it is my expectation that we will be able to take the first step this year,” he said separately in a speech marking Denmark’s Constitution Day.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed the plans, saying talks had already reached an advanced stage.

“We suggested a long time ago that it would make sense to offer protection outside of the European Union, where (migrants) get protection where it is necessary but do not have the opportunity to pick the best system in Europe,” said Kurz in Brussels.

Both Rasmussen and Kurz said talks were being held directly between European governments and not within the EU framework.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was not immediately opposed to such an initiative.

“I believe the defence against illegal immigration is a European as well as national matter. It is not up to me to be against it,” he told a joint press conference with Kurz, ahead of Austria taking over the rotating EU presidency.