putovnica, passport.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Tony Webster, used under CC BY

Germany and France want to introduce a "snap-back" mechanism suspending EU visa-free travel benefits in case of abuses of the system or migration surges, floating the idea on Thursday amid a growing debate about lifting visa requirements for Turkey.

Last month, the European Union struck a deal with Ankara under which migrants reaching Greece from Turkey can be sent back, in return for a range of concessions.

Among other things, Brussels has offered the prospect of lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc starting in July, if Ankara meets predefined benchmarks.

But the move is controversial among EU member states.

There are concerns that it could encourage people to illegally resettle in the EU or pave the way for thousands of Turkish Kurds to seek asylum in the bloc. There are also worries it could create a security risk by opening the door to radicalized Islamists.

Provisions already exist to suspend visa-free travel arrangements in case of a substantial and sudden increase in arrivals. But they are too slow, taking at least nine months, according to a joint paper that France and Germany shared Thursday with other member states.

"The current migration and refugee trends make it necessary to have an efficient mechanism in place to suspend visa liberalization," says the proposal, seen by dpa.

The paper envisages a snap-back mechanism that could be triggered by: a substantial increase in people from the partner country illegally staying in an EU state; a surge in requests for asylum or residence permits; or an inability to return people to the country under agreed readmission procedures.

Under these conditions, visa-free travel would be suspended for six months.

While the paper does not explicitly mention Turkey, such scenarios have been cited as reasons for caution over the removal of visa requirements for that country's citizens.

Ratcheting up provisions to suspend visa-free travel would be a "very important tool to give people confidence" in relation to Turkey, EU lawmaker Manfred Weber of the centre-right European People's Party said Thursday.

The Franco-German proposal comes ahead of a European Commission report, due Wednesday, on Ankara's progress in fulfilling the EU's 72 conditions for visa liberalization. The EU's executive is expected to recommend the move on Wednesday if it finds that all have been met.

It would then be up to EU member states and the European Parliament to take a decision.

Turkey, which is also a candidate for EU membership, says it has already implemented most measures and will complete the outstanding ones by Wednesday.

Ankara has repeatedly stressed that its cooperation in stemming migration flows hinges on the lifting of visa requirements for short-term visits to the EU, insisting that there can be no restrictions.

Latest news

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

French centrist leader offers conditional support to Macron

The leader of France's centrist Democratic Movement party, Francois Bayrou, said Wednesday he was willing to support reformist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron in the country's upcoming presidential election.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.

Russia to build replica Reichstag for schoolchildren to storm

A military-themed park in a suburb of Moscow will soon install a replica of Berlin's Reichstag for Russian schoolchildren to storm, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

Alitalia strike set for Thursday, hundreds of flights cancelled

Employees of Italy's loss-making airline Alitalia will go on strike Thursday, air transport unions confirmed, after government talks with both sides failed to break the deadlock.

EU calls on Germany to reduce large current account surplus

The European Commission on Wednesday called on Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to reduce its large current account surplus and focus on boosting domestic consumption.

Germans' demand for Croatian destinations on steady rise

Bookings for Croatia's destinations in some regions of Bavaria have been rising and some statistics show a 30% increase year-on-year, according to the preliminary information from the "f.re.e." fair for leisure and travel, which opened in Munich on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.