ECONOMY

Turk farmers a problem

BRUSSELS – Turkey’s farming sector would have great difficulty adapting to tough European Union standards if Ankara’s aspirations to EU membership became a reality, Europe’s agriculture chief Franz Fischler said yesterday. Highlighting Turkey’s size and farmland resource, Fischler said there were serious farm income differences to be sorted out before its membership could be considered, as well as problems with the country’s standards of food safety. «There are enormous rural development problems to be solved, problems with veterinary and plant health regulations,» he told the agriculture committee of the European Parliament. «These are some things we have to get a handle on if there is such an enlargement,» he said. Fischler repeated earlier comments that Turkish membership of the EU’s farm policy could cost roughly the same amount of EU money invested in the 10 new member states’ farming sectors. The outgoing European Commission will present an assessment on October 6 on whether Turkey has met the political and economic criteria for starting talks on joining the 25-member bloc. Based on this advice, EU heads of state will decide at a December summit whether to open entry talks. Fischler said several Turkish farming sectors would face problems adapting to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, a complex system of subsidies and production quotas worth nearly half the bloc’s annual budget of close to 100 billion euros. «There are areas in Turkey with considerable price differences. Wheat prices are 30 percent higher than in the EU – and it’s not just wheat. We have to expect income differences if our (agricultural) system is applied in Turkey,» he said. «And you have the fact that Turkey is very competitive in some crops – hazelnuts, almonds and some fruit: sectors where Turkey is perhaps the most competitive in the world,» he said. Fischler is already known to be skeptical over Turkey’s EU bid, especially after a letter he wrote to colleagues in the EU executive was leaked this month. In his letter, dated July 30 but made public some 10 days ago, Fischler wrote that Turkey was culturally «oriental,» geographically «Asian» and that its EU accession would open «a geostrategic Pandora’s box.»