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EU report criticises Turkey on human rights and freedoms

The European Union has severely criticised Turkey for a series of flaws in its respect for human rights and democratic standards at a time when the bloc is looking to Ankara to help deal with the migrant crisis.

In an annual report to prepare for possible Turkish membership, the EU said that on political issues "the pace of reforms slowed down", adding that some key legislation "ran against European standards".

The full report also said that "major shortcomings remain" when it comes to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The release of the report had been delayed so as not to influence elections last week.

In an initial assessment for the European Parliament, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn told legislators that "over the past year, significant shortcomings affected the independence of the judiciary as well as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression".

He specifically cited "increased pressure and intimidation of journalists and media outlets" on top of the muzzling of internet reporting.

After a decade when the EU had the upper hand in membership talks, the bloc now needs Turkey to deal with the migrant crisis since is it a key nation on the way between Syria and the European heartland where migrants have sought shelter.

The EU is already in talks with Ankara on an action plan to help ease the Syrian refugee crisis, with the EU holding out a package that would involve billions of pounds in aid. The EU report said that Turkey had already spent more than £4.8 billion to manage the hosting of some two million refugees from Syria.

If Turkey is better able to keep the migrants from crossing into Greece and into the EU's heartland, the pressure on EU nations would be relieved. Yet, such considerations did not stop the EU from criticising Ankara.

Instead of coming closer to EU standards on democratic principles, it said, there is "significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly".

It said corruption in Turkey remains widespread and its fight against it "inadequate".

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