Bolkestein acht grootschalige hervorming landbouwsubsidies nodig bij toetreding Turkije (en)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Frits Bolkestein has warned that the European Union will "implode" if farm and regional aid policies remain unchanged by the time Turkey joins the EU.

The Internal Market Commissioner on Monday (6 September) cautioned that current levels of support for farmers and poorer regions would be untenable given the size of the EU's collective budget.

"After the entry of Turkey, the EU could simply not continue with the agricultural and regional policy it has had up until now. The EU would implode", he told an audience at Leiden University, the Netherlands.

His comments echo those made by ex-Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari whose independent commission yesterday reported that member states' current 1.27% of GDP ceiling for budget contributions would not be enough in a Union including Turkey.

The EU currently spends around half of its 100 billion a year budget on Agricultural aid.

In his speech Mr Bolkestein also suggested that acceptance of Turkey should also mean acceptance of other countries on the EU's eastern flank.

"Whoever accepts Turkey must also accept Ukraine and Belarus. These countries are more European than Turkey ... In 15 to 20 years, we could have an EU with up to 40 Member States", he said.

Budget hike, aid cut

A spokesman for Mr Bolkestein today denied the Commissioner opposes Turkey's accession but was highlighting the need for Turkey and the EU to be well prepared for the country's accession.

According to the Ahtasaari Commission, the challenge is not insurmountable, although many political obstacles remain.

If polices were to remain unchanged, with a relatively large and poor country inside the club the burden on richer member states could be increased considerably.

Already many member states are pushing for a cut in EU budget contributions.

And with people in net budget contributing countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, already sceptical of Turkish membership, any hike in fees would be doubly unpopular among voters.

However, there is likely to be pressure for cuts to come from other policies, as France - a major beneficiary of regional and farm aid - is also a country where Turkish membership receives a lukewarm response.

The European Commission is scheduled to report on Turkey's fulfilment of the criteria to start accession negotiations in early October.

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