The European Commission has urged EU governments to reopen stalled membership talks with Turkey despite Ankara's crackdown on protesters.
This came in an annual report, released by the EU's executive Commission on Wednesday, which looks at Turkey's progress in meeting the requirements to join the 28-nation bloc.
The Commission backed plans to breathe new life into Turkey's EU bid by opening talks on a new chapter, or policy area, of the membership negotiations, the first to be opened in three years, despite criticism of Ankara's handling of the protests.
EU governments will consider the Commission's report at a meeting on October 22 and EU sources said they could decide to launch the new round of talks with Turkey in early November.
Hurdles to memberships
Turkey began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over Cyprus, resistance to Turkish membership in key members Germany and France, as well as Ankara's crackdown of protests have slowed progress to a snail's pace.
The Commission's criticism to Turkey included what it called "an uncompromising stance" against dissent and a failure to protect fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
Turkey's tough stance on dissenting opinion became obvious earlier this year "when police used excessive force in response to a major wave of protests", the commission said.
The protests began in May and quickly turned into widespread demonstrations against the heavy-handed crackdown and against conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian ways after a decade in power.
The report also criticised Turkey's legal framework, the judiciary and frequent political intimidation that contribute to curbing freedom of expression.
But the commission also welcomed Turkey's progress on some judicial reforms and the efforts to seek a lasting peace agreement with Kurdish rebels and strengthen the group's minority rights.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, responding to the report, warned that putting increased pressure on his country could undermine public support for EU membership.
He noted public backing had fallen from around 75 percent several years ago to "around 18 or 20 percent" now, blaming EU countries for the drop because they "put obstacle upon obstacle on Turkey ... and act irresponsibly".