The accession to the European Union of Cyprus and Turkey along with other candidate states would benefit union members and boost the consumer market by up to 31 per cent, thereby allowing businesses to grow with lower production costs, according to a report by a European business group made public yesterday. The accession of 12 EU candidate states – including Cyprus – would boost the single market by 22 percent – giving businesses access to 482 million new consumers – with Turkey’s inclusion adding another 65 million to the consumer base, concluded the report by the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) of which the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) is a member. UNICE is the official voice of more than 16 million small, medium and large firms active in Europe, employing over 106 million people, the union’s press release said yesterday. The report suggested that EU enlargement is an opportunity for businesses rather than a boost to the economy by adding that the inclusion of all candidate states – whose total gross domestic product (GDP) is 7 percent of the EU’s GDP for 2000 – would only increase annual economic growth by a scant 0.1 per cent. «UNICE supports a merit-based approach. Each candidate country should be allowed to join the EU as soon as it is ready. There is a cost attached to delaying enlargement for frontrunners but also to precipitate accession by those countries which are not fully ready,» the secretary-general of UNICE, Philippe de Buck, said. Cyprus is a frontrunner for EU accession and the union has said that it does not need to have solved its political problem with Turkey before joining. Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz warned on Friday that the government was running out of time to carry out reforms needed to join the European Union. «We have a serious time problem. We must show more will and speed up our moves in order to start accession talks,» the Anatolia news agency quoted him saying. «Our membership is uncertain if we cannot start negotiations this year,» said Yilmaz.