Europe

EU criticizes Turkey rights, media abuses

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center-left, EU Council President Donald Tusk, center-right, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, second right, and EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, right, are greeted by Syrian refugee children at a Syrian refugee camp in Nizip, Gaziantep, Turkey, Saturday, April 23, 2016. Merkel and top European Union officials, under pressure to reassess a migrant deportation deal with Turkey, were traveling close to Turkey's border with Syria on Saturday in a bid to bolster the troubled agreement. Davutoglu's wife Sare Davutoglu is at the left. (Hakan Goktepe/Pool Photo via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center-left, EU Council President Donald Tusk, center-right, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, second right, and EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, right, are greeted by Syrian refugee children at a Syrian refugee camp in Nizip, Gaziantep, Turkey, Saturday, April 23, 2016. Merkel and top European Union officials, under pressure to reassess a migrant deportation deal with Turkey, were traveling close to Turkey's border with Syria on Saturday in a bid to bolster the troubled agreement. Davutoglu's wife Sare Davutoglu is at the left. (Hakan Goktepe/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A senior European Union official says Turkey's crackdown on the media and reported human rights abuses are pushing the country further away from Europe even as it hopes to join the EU.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told EU lawmakers Thursday that "the distance between us and Turkey is not decreasing, it is increasing."

He said "if they want to come closer to Europe — that is what they state — they should improve the situation of the media, of human rights, of civil society."

Timmermans is a key negotiator of the widely criticized EU-Turkey agreement to stem the flow of migrants to Greece.

Human rights and media freedom groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the limited tolerance of dissent shown by authorities in Turkey.