EU raps Turkey on civic freedoms, sees languishing entry bid

The European Union said Turkey won’t make progress toward becoming a member as long as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government interferes with criminal probes and cracks down on Internet and media freedoms.

In a report Wednesday documenting Turkey’s growing estrangement from the EU, the European Commission said it has “serious concerns” about Erdogan’s housecleaning of prosecutors and judges following accusations of widespread official corruption.

The Brussels-based commission, which manages the EU entry process, also assailed Erdogan’s efforts to ban social media and heavy-handed treatment of skeptical journalists.

“Accession negotiations need to regain momentum,” the commission said. “Turkey can accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfillment of the benchmarks.”

EU criticism of Turkey’s record on civil liberties has become an annual ritual since the entry talks started in 2005. The commission also re-issued a regular appeal for Turkey to patch up relations with Cyprus, an EU member.

Erdogan, who vaulted to the presidency in August after 11 years as prime minister, has alarmed the EU by restricting freedom of expression. “I am increasingly against the Internet every day,” he told media groups on Oct. 3, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Wednesday’s report is the last by the current commission, which leaves office Oct. 31. The head of the incoming commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said that no nation will join the 28- country EU during the next five-year term.

Turkey’s effort has stagnated since starting in October 2005. Turkey has made it 1/35th of the way through a checklist of EU-mandated legislative and policy moves. The entry process was on hold for three years until resuming last November, only to bog down again.

With Islamic State militants on the march in neighboring Syria, the EU called for Turkey to progressively align itself with European foreign policy in order to present a common front against radicalism and terrorism.

Turkey has balked at prior attempts to lash it to European diplomacy. The commission said Wednesday that “political dialogue should be used to develop closer cooperation against ISIL and its funding networks.” [Bloomberg]

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