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ISTANBUL (AP) — A top European Union official says the EU will help finance the construction of a railway line connecting Istanbul to the Bulgarian border with a 275-million-euro ($314 million) grant.

EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen spoke Thursday at a news conference with Turkey’s economy minister at an annual meeting aiming to increase economic cooperation between Turkey and the EU despite their fraught relationship.

Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005 but the talks have since stalled. The EU says Turkey has been drifting further away from European democratic values.

Several EU journalists whose press accreditations have not been renewed by Turkey’s government couldn’t attend Thursday’s conference.

Katainen said he “regretted this deeply.” He said the EU was working with Turkish authorities to ensure “freedom of the press is respected.”