Thursday

24th May 2018

Iceland says final EU goodbye

  • Iceland's GDP per capita is back to pre-crisis level, making EU membership less attracitve. (Photo: Christine Zenino)

Iceland definitively dropped its EU membership bid on Thursday (12 March), nearly six years after having made the demand.

"The government of Iceland has no intentions to resume accession talks", country’s foreign affair minister, Gunnar Sveinsson, wrote in a letter to enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and Latvia’s foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkevics.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Almost six years after asking for EU membership, Iceland says it is not interested anymore (Photo: siggi mus)

Talks were suspended in May 2013 after a centre-right coalition, opposed to EU membership, had come to power.

By that time, 27 of the 35 legislative chapters in accession talks had been opened and 11 concluded. But disputes remained on several issues, mainly to do with agriculture and fisheries.

Fishing quotas, especially for mackerel, have for many years been a divisive issue between Iceland and the EU and had not yet been negotiated in the accession talks.

An agreement on mackerel quotas was reached by the EU with Norway and the Faroe Islands but not with Iceland in March 2014.

Reykjavik denounced it as an agreement made "behind [its] back" after it failed to find a common ground with the other countries.

"Iceland’s interests are best served outside the European union", the country’s government website said Wednesday.

Iceland made its membership request in July 2009, just as it was in the throes of violent financial crisis. EU member states decided to open talks with the island in December of the following year.

Now Iceland is experiencing economic growth again (it grew by 1.9 percent last year) making accession to a still crisis-ridden EU less attractive.


The decision by prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson’s government to leave EU talks for good has been criticized by the opposition.

Social Democrat leader Arni Pall Arnasson regretted that the government took the decision with no formal approval by parliament.


When talks were suspended in 2013, thousands of people demonstrated to protest against the decision and the opposition called for a referendum on the issue.

But the government Wednesday said it has "no intention of holding a referendum on the negotiations with the European Union as this would constitute voting on an issue the government already opposes."

"If the process will be recommenced at a later date, the present government believes it important not to move forward without referring to the nation first with the question of whether it wants to accede to the EU," it added.

In his letter to the EU, Gunnar Sveinsson spoke of "the importance of continued close relations and cooperation between the EU and Iceland".

The country is a member of the EU's borderless Schengen area and of the European economic area, which gives it access to the EU’s single market with no tariff barrier for its fish and agriculture products.

Analysis

Iceland's not-so-quiet revolution

In the space of three years, Iceland's main parties have seen their vote decimated, and new parties may well take almost half the electorate in Saturday's election.

Interview

EU regions chief fires warning shot over funding cuts

Committee of the Regions president Karl-Heinz Lambertz tells EUobserver why he is not happy with proposed cuts to the EU's cohesion policy. France has already spoken up against Common Agriculture Policy, but who will speak for the regions?

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU