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Turkey’s EU bid slips further away: Commission

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The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini attends a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 22, 2018. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union are fading, the bloc’s executive said yesterday, citing worsening conditions in the courts, prisons and economy.

Still considered a close security ally, Turkey’s candidacy to join the world’s largest trading group is frozen because of “further serious backsliding” on human rights, judicial independence and stable economic policy, the European Commission said.

Those are all areas considered central by the European Union, which prides itself on being a democratic club of market economies that respect the rule of law.

“Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union,” the Commission said in its annual report on Ankara’s progress towards membership, a path formally undertaken in 2005.

“Negotiations have … effectively come to a standstill,” the Commission said of Turkey, a member of the US-led NATO alliance which shares a border with Iraq and Syria.

In what EU governments view as a slide towards authoritarian rule under President Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has faced several years of harsh Commission reports, but none have been so critical across so many areas.

The bloc’s executive said free speech and freedom to protest were being curtailed, local democracy was at risk, and the government had “negatively affected” financial markets.

“Serious backsliding continued in the Turkish economy, leading to deeper concerns over the functioning of the country’s market economy,” it said.

With Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents and his sweeping new presidential powers that the Commission say lacks checks and balances, many EU states say Turkey no longer meets the democratic criteria to be a candidate, let alone an EU member.

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