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

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.