BRUSSELS (BBC)—The European Commission has called on Turkey urgently to address significant failings on human rights and democracy, the BBC reports.
A delayed annual report on Turkish prospects for EU membership says there have been serious setbacks in the past two years on freedom of expression.
It also says the independence of the judiciary had been undermined and that new laws run against EU standards.
The report’s publication comes at a time when the EU needs Turkey’s help in trying to control the refugee crisis.
It also follows parliamentary elections in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained the majority it lost in June.
The report had been pushed back by several weeks because sensitive negotiations on the refugee crisis were taking place with leading Turkish officials, including the president, shortly before the November 1 elections.
Although Erdogan himself is not named in the report’s key findings, there are fairly direct criticisms of Turkey’s powerful president.
After several years of progress on freedom of expression, the report warns of “serious backsliding” over the past two years.
“Ongoing and new criminal cases against journalists, writers or social media users, intimidation of journalists and media outlets as well as the authorities’ actions curtailing freedom of media are of considerable concern,” it says.
Changes to Turkey’s internet law, allowing the authorities to block websites without a court order, were a significant step back from European standards, it adds.
The report says there has also been a severe deterioration of its security situation and that it is imperative that peace talks resume with the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by the Turkish government and the EU.
Hundreds have been killed in fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK fighters in the country’s east and south-east since a ceasefire collapsed in July.