Economic and financial reports / European Investment Bank 2004/02
The paper explores the readiness of the Turkish banking sector for integration into the European Union. We address the issue from four different angles. First, we review the present structure and health of the sector, including the state of the regulatory framework, providing where possible a comparative perspective with the larger EU accession countries. Second, we look at the sector's financial solidity in 2003, with a view to gauging its readiness to adapt to a more challenging banking environment. Third, we look at the present obstacles to financial deepening and identify the most pressing issues that seem to hinder the sector's growth. Fourth, we explore issues of productivity and efficiency in the sector. In a final section, we ask the question of whether the Turkish banking sector is or will be ready in due time for EU accession and formulate some policy recommendations. We conclude that in 2004 the Turkish banking sector compares well with those of the new members of the EU. The major source of financial instability in the past was macroeconomic instability and government involvement. At present Turkey is closer to achieving macro-stability than ever in the past, and the government is reducing its direct involvement. Major strides have been accomplished after the crisis of 2001 in cleaning up a very nontransparent and politicized banking environment and in upgrading the regulatory structure to EU standards. Clearly, the job is not finished yet, with the challenge of introducing risk-management based on Basle II and of bringing the capital market to EU standards. Further consolidation and mergers with foreign partners will be inevitable. Should EU integration become a concrete vision of the future, macro stability has great chances to become rooted in Turkey and the banking sector will quickly move to EU standards, long before any accession date.