Turkey's Babacan: Euro crisis not dampened our desire to join EU

Turkey's Babacan: Euro crisis not dampened our desire to join EU

TOKYO - Reuters
Turkeys Babacan: Euro crisis not dampened our desire to join EU The debt crisis in the euro zone has not dampened Turkey's desire to join the European Union, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said on Tuesday, as it seeks to carry out political reforms to meet conditions of membership.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting with Japanese cabinet ministers, Babacan also urged European countries to act decisively to deal with the sovereign debt crisis there, warning of global consequences if they fail to get their act together.

"We hope that EU member states who have problems do their homework, and everybody keeps their houses tidy and clean," he said.

"They should be careful about their budgets and they should do reforms ... When there are holes in budgets, no matter how much the European Central Bank prints money it's not going to be enough. They have to close the holes first and then put money in."

The ECB is likely to cut interest rates on Thursday and offer ultra-long liquidity operations to support banks, while leaving the door open to further measures to fight Europe's debt crisis if governments agree fiscal reforms.

Babacan said that it was important for Turkey to improve in areas such as the rule of law and the quality of democracy in order to meet the political criteria of EU membership.

However, the minister, who is responsible for overseeing the economy, said that the EU was no model for Turkey in terms of economics.

The world's 16th largest economy is expected to grow 7-8 percent this year after expanding 9 percent last year. Turkey is also aiming to reduce its debt-to-GDP ration to 32 percent by the end of 2014 from the current 39.8 percent, Babacan said.

Last month he said that Turkey's 2012 growth forecast of 4 percent might be negatively affected if the debt crisis in Europe worsens.

A rising Muslim democracy, Turkey began accession talks with Brussels in 2005, but progress has been hobbled by tensions between Ankara and EU member Cyprus as well as opposition within France and Germany.

President Abdullah Gul said last month that delays in Turkey's negotiations to join the EU were becoming "insulting", warning that support for EU membership among the Turkish people could be lost.

But Babacan said the timing is "not very important as of now.

"For us what's important is keeping the membership target ... We applied in 1959. We are very patient."