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EU Commission criticizes 'slowdown' in Turkey's rights reforms

The EU Commission has heavily criticized Turkey's political reform progress in its latest report. The EU candidate country has come under fire for arresting journalists and for failing to create an independent judiciary.

The European Commission slammed the status of Turkey's human rights reforms on Tuesday in its latest country progress report. Specifically, Brussels criticized the EU candidate country for setbacks in enforcing basic democratic rights - such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly - and for a slowdown in its fight against corruption.

"The Commission hopes to see an end to

the escalating violence in Turkey

and the return to negotiations on a lasting solution to the Kurdish issue," insisted Commissioner Johannes Hahn during the announcement on Tuesday. The head EU enlargement commissioner also noted that the report found "significant shortcomings" in Turkey's judiciary and basic freedoms.

"There was significant backsliding in the areas of

freedom of expression

and freedom of assembly," the report found. "Most recently, the escalation of violence in the east and southeast since July gave rise to serious concerns over human rights violations." Additionally, commissioners were alarmed by Turkey's "latest police investigations against journalists, writers and social media users" and called out Turkey's content-blocking Internet law.

Watch video 01:44

Arrests spark concern over press freedom in Turkey

Turkey also came under fire for regressing in its efforts to establish

an independent judicial system.

"The independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined since 2014, and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure," the report found. "Substantial efforts are needed to restore the independence of the judiciary."

Turkey's progress report - which was supposed to be released in October, ahead of the country's November 1 elections - was part of a yearly package on the progress of EU applicants. Some worry that the highly critical report will cripple other EU efforts to secure Ankara's cooperation in the refugee crisis, especially with

stemming the flow of European-bound asylum-seekers.

The other membership hopefuls in Tuesday's progress report included Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Turkey has sought EU membership since 1987, but setbacks in political reforms and Franco-German tensions have frequently ended negotiations.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, however, that he does not expect any new countries to join the bloc before 2019.

rs/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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