EU interior ministers are expected Thursday to press ahead with measures to tackle the bloc's migration challenges, with concrete figures on the table for the intake of Syrians from Turkey, as well as plans for a European border and coast guard.

The 28-member bloc has been working to halt a migration surge that saw more than 1 million people arrive last year. Most of them crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands, in the hope of ultimately reaching wealthy northern European states.

At the core of the European Union's approach is a controversial deal with Turkey under which new arrivals to Greece will be sent back. For each Syrian returned in this way, the bloc will take in one Syrian refugee living in Turkey.

The aim is to replace dangerous, uncontrolled and illegal entries into the EU with a managed scheme granting protection to Syrians fleeing the conflict in their nation.

For this purpose, a draft country-by-country breakdown has been prepared, detailing the distribution of an overall 4,488 Syrians from Turkey during the first four months of the programme.

EU interior ministers are expected Thursday to discuss the numbers at a meeting in Luxembourg, although it was unclear whether the breakdown will be made public.

According to the document, seen by dpa, the highest number of Syrians - 218 a month - would go to non-EU member Norway, which is also taking part in the scheme. Next in line are France (148), Italy (118) and Germany (100).

The EU has agreed to take in up to 72,000 Syrians from Turkey overall under the scheme.

The distribution plan still faces resistance from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, according to diplomatic sources. The three countries would take in up to 84 Syrians monthly under the draft.

Besides the deal with Turkey, the European Commission has also put forward plans for an EU border and coast guard that would be able to intervene in member states if they are "unable or unwilling" to protect their frontiers.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said he expected the ministers to agree Thursday on the initiative. The proposal would then need to be negotiated with the European Parliament.

German Interior Minister Thomas De Maziere expressed hope that the process could be completed by the end of June, adding that such swift action was "necessary and appropriate."

Border controls have usually been a jealously guarded national competence in the 28-country EU, but the migration crisis has put pressure on Europe's internal border-free Schengen system, prompting calls for a strengthening of the bloc's external borders.

The new border and coast guard "should be active quickly to check on new routes, or routes that are being used more heavily than before, for instance from northern Africa to Italy," said Dutch Migration Minister Klaas Dijkhoff, whose country holds the EU's presidency.

But NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned against taking the focus off the Aegean Sea route just yet, even though migrant crossings have dropped since the EU-Turkey deal.

NATO vessels are in the Aegean to help crack down on the migrant smugglers. Stoltenberg will visit one ship on Thursday.

"It's important not to end this activity too early," Stoltenberg said in Turkey on Thursday morning. "We need to remain flexible because the people smugglers can shift their routes very rapidly."

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.