Animal diseases hamper Turkey's EU bid -study

By Anna Mudeva

AMSTERDAM, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Strengthening Turkey's porous south and
eastern borders to prevent animal diseases from spreading in Europe is
a key challenge in preparing the country's agriculture for EU
membership, a report said on Friday.

The report, by an international group of agriculture economists,
assumes Turkey joins the EU in 2015 but says the country will need
more time to attain food safety standards that would allow it to be
part of a single market for animal products.

The risk of disease outbreaks in the EU might increase and food safety
and quality might be diluted by embracing a country with a poor record
in these areas, unless effective border controls were in place from
the moment of accession, the report said.

"Some highly infectious animal diseases that have been virtually
eradicated in western and northern Europe remain endemic in Turkey,"
said the report presented by the Dutch Wageningen University, which
was the lead researcher.

"The situation is complicated by the fragmentation of the livestock
sector, Turkey's geographical location and its porous borders to the
south and east," said the report, which focuses on the impact of
Turkish EU membership on agriculture.

Turkey, which borders Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia to the south and
the east, hopes EU leaders will agree at a summit on Dec. 17 to open
entry talks in 2005 and eventually join the current 25-member bloc.

The EU has said that agriculture, accounting for half Turkey's
territory and employing a third of its workforce, will be a key issue
in its preparations for accession.

Friday's report said highly infectious diseases including
foot-and-mouth and sheep and goat pox had occurred in Turkey virtually
each year since 1996. The country was also prone to outbreaks of
anthrax and brucellosis, it said.

Economic and political turmoil in the Middle East over the past decade
has caused an extension of animal disease epidemics in the region,
posing threats to Europe.

The report said Ankara had shown progress in harmonising veterinary
legislation with EU standards but added the infrastructure,
administrative capacity and commitment needed for effective law
enforcement and border control remained weak.

"Even with effective implementation of the acquis (EU's set of laws),
it will be many years before Turkey reaches full disease-free status
for all the most infectious diseases," the report concluded.

"The greatest challenge for Turkey does not, however, concern
policies. It is in fact to develop...effective control of external
borders by the time of accession."

It estimated that EU budget payments to Turkey under structural
policies, including agriculture, would be between 9.5 billion and 16.6
billion euros in 2015, while Turkey's budget contribution would be 5.4
billion euros.

Turkey, which would add more than 80 million consumers to the EU-25's
total of 452 million, has been seeking membership since 1963.

12/03/04 08:42 ET