Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Thursday insisted his country would not relax its contested anti-terror laws, a key condition laid down by the European Union for giving Turks visa-free access to the bloc.

Yildirim pointed to the series of terror attacks that have rocked Turkey in the past year in telling visiting EU Parliament chief Martin Schulz the government would maintain its hardline stance.

"We have made it clear to the European Union and Schulz that we cannot amend our anti-terror laws under the current circumstances. It is a matter of life or death for us," Yildirim told a joint news conference with Schulz.

The EU in March reached a deal with Turkey to halt the mass flow of migrants across the Mediterranean in return for a set of incentives, including billions of euros in aid for refugees on Turkish soil and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

But before scrapping the visa requirement, the EU says Ankara must amend its draconian security laws, which have been used to detain scores of activists, journalists and academics.

In quotes translated from German to Turkish, Schulz admitted to differences on the issue but said a workaround could maybe be found.