ECONOMY

Turkey faces lengthy talks with Europe

LONDON (Reuters) – Turkey faces at least a decade-long period of talks before it can join the European Union, economists say, with a one in five chance it will pull out of talks before they end, a Reuters poll shows. The median forecast in the February 7-9 survey of more than 30 emerging market strategists showed Turkey joining the bloc in 2016, slightly below the 2017 forecast in the last poll in November. Turkey’s long-delayed EU entry talks were launched last October, after much wrangling on both sides, but the road ahead looks set to be tough, with calls already from EU diplomats on Ankara to speed up reforms. «It will be a long process. While Turkey does not have to catch up much in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, it has to catch up a lot in terms of political and market readiness criteria,» said Dagmar Alpen at Oppenheim Research in Cologne. There are concerns the entire accession process could grind to a halt if issues such as minority rights and freedom of expression are not resolved, while one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Turkey’s EU progress this year remains Cyprus. The island of Cyprus has been split among ethnic lines since 1974, divided by the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot south, which joined the EU in May 2004, and a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the north which is backed only by Turkey. The median forecast in the Reuters survey showed a 20 percent chance Turkey will decide it does not want to be a full member and pull out of negotiations before they are complete. Forecasts ranged from zero to 70 percent. Some argued that Turkey was unlikely to throw in the towel after four decades trying to seek EU membership, but said such a scenario would become more likely as Turkey achieves greater political and economic stability in the years ahead. The survey also showed a one in five chance that the EU will suspend talks with Ankara if not enough progress is made on reforms or Cyprus.