Saturday, December 11, 2004

No Turkish delight

As the controversy over future Turkish membership of the EU grows, it is becoming increasingly evident that the burden that would be placed on the CAP would be considerable. German Christian Democrats and leading politicians in France are advocating a 'privileged partnership' for Turkey as an alternative to full membership.

The Commission has estimated the CAP cost of Turkish membership in 2025 (at 2004 prices) at €11.3bn. A new study by the University of Wageningen, which admittedly makes an unrealistic assumption about membership being possible by 2015, gives a much smaller figure of an extra €5bn on the annual bill for agricultural and rural support. Indeed, the study also makes a number of other assumptions that may not be fulfilled such as reform of the sugar regime, abolition of export subsidies and a 20% appreciation in the Turkish lira. However, the study also argues that Turkish membership would lock the EU into a long-term commitment to continue transferring resources to an underdeveloped agricultural sector.

The report predicts that massive pre-existing problems of poverty and unemployment in rural areas would be made much worse in the short term by the shock of competition with farmers in the rest of the EU. Turkey is seen as being in no position to implement the complex regulatory structure of the CAP. This is not just a problem of a lack of trained staff, but the dual nature of the Turkish economy in which much work is casual and not officially declared. Moreover, diseases endemic to the country would delay the integration of the country into the single market for animal products for many years. Food hygiene standards are also poor.

The issue of further enlargement is becoming an increasingly fraught one for the EU. Ukranian overtures have received short shrift because of geopolitical considerations. But exactly where does Europe stop? New member states may be unwilling to slam down the shutters. However, this page has serious concerns about the admission of Bulgaria and Romania, both in terms of the financial implications and administrative systems in those countries. Yet delaying their admission would be a big blow to their efforts to reinvigorate their economies. There are no easy answers, but further enlargements are going to increase the pressures on the CAP.

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