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EU Commission to give Turkey its lowest rating yet

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in Ankara. / Reuters

By Middle East Affairs

Turkey is expected to receive Tuesday its most critical report from the European Union commission since it first cast its bid to join the European Union more than 10 years ago, Reuters reported.

While Turkey has cooperated by taking in Syrian refugees, two officials – who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity – said Turkey and the EU are drifting apart on “human rights, press and judicial freedoms and the rule of law,” and that “Brussels is warning that years of progress towards membership were being lost.”

The Commission will publish its annual report Tuesday in Strasbourg to assess and summarize progress for Turkey and other countries in their bids to become EU members. The bidders must bring their countries’ status and regulations to be in line with EU standards and values.

Germany’s Welt am Sonntag first published excerpts of the EU report, but it was later confirmed to Reuters by EU officials. The excerpts showed the Commission believes it cannot open negotiations on “new aspects of EU membership.” In other words, Turkey’s EU status remains frozen.

The Commission originally began raising concerns in 2014 about whether Turkey should be eligible to join the European Union. This new report, Reuters said, will be even harsher.

“There is massive backsliding away from the European Union,” one EU official told Reuters.

For example, EU officials say Turkey has backtracked on its promise to provide its citizens with the right to a fair trial and free speech. President Tayyip Erdogan also cracked down on police, judges, teachers and more after a coup attempt in 2016.

Erdogan, however, said last month he would remain committed to seeking EU membership and that the crackdown was necessary to maintain national security levels. Turkey, which is a member of the NATO Western military alliance, began serious talks to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after it originally applied.