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EU warns over Turkey 'backsliding' on rights, democracy

The EU on Tuesday accused Turkey of backsliding on democratic standards and human rights, saying a crackdown launched after a coup attempt in 2016 was having a "profound and devastating impact".

Turkey began talks to join the EU in 2005 but the process is effectively frozen amid ever-growing European concern about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hardline rule.

In its annual report on candidate countries' progress towards EU norms, the bloc warned -- as it has before in recent years -- that Turkey "continued to move further away" from European standards.

Erdogan launched a major crackdown in the wake of the failed 2016 coup to unseat him, and the report said that although a state of emergency was lifted in 2018, its effects were still being felt.

"Many of the measures introduced during the state of emergency remained in force and continued to have a profound and devastating impact," the report said.

Freedom of expression was being eroded in Turkey, the report warned, through surveillance and prosecutions of journalists, lawyers, activists and academics.

The report also highlighted EU anger at Turkey's gas exploration activities in waters claimed by Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean which have caused a full-blown diplomatic crisis in recent months.

Elsewhere in the report, the EU hailed some progress among Western Balkans countries -- mostly from the former Yugoslavia.

But it lamented slow progress in legal and judicial reforms, matching "a lack of political will" to push the changes through.

Turkey's foreign ministry lashed out at the report, saying it "reflects an approach based on prejudice and is far from constructive".

"While the report does not mention the EU's broken promises, it criticises our country with unfounded arguments," the ministry said it a statement.

"Turkey has not moved away from the EU, instead it remains committed to the accession process despite attempts in certain circles to move away from it."

The European Commission, the bloc's executive, also announced a nine-billion-euro investment package for the Western Balkans -- which groups Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

The scheme aims to help the region boost its economy, improve integration and help the countries -- which are significantly poorer than most EU members -- become greener and more digitally adept.

Topics: European Union , Turkey , Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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