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.