Turkey will be great asset to EU, says chief of OECD

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey would be an economic asset to the European Union and is sure to join one day despite present political difficulties, the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said yesterday. Turkey began EU entry talks one year ago, but officials have warned of the dangers of a «train crash» in the next few months due to disagreements over EU member Cyprus. «I am not running this (negotiation) process… but I think (Turkish membership) is going to happen because it is in everybody’s economic interests,» OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria told Reuters in an interview. «It already is happening, the benefits (of the accession process) are already accruing for Turkey.» Turkey has seen annual economic growth averaging 8 percent over the past few years and has begun attracting substantial foreign investment. It has also begun aligning its laws and regulations with those of the EU, though officials say Ankara is unlikely to join the wealthy bloc before 2014 at the very earliest. Advocates of Turkish membership stress the benefits of guaranteed access to a fast-growing market of 73 million people. Turkey is also becoming a major energy hub, crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines, and is well-placed to help the EU fight cross-border crime and terrorism. «I attach a high value to this process (of rapprochement), regardless of whether Turkey joins the EU eventually or not,» said Gurria, who is in Ankara to present an OECD report on the country’s economy and to hold talks with senior officials. A former Mexican central banker, Gurria acknowledged that Turkey faces big political obstacles on its path to the EU.