18th Jul 2019

German house in landmark vote on Iceland EU membership

  • The German Bundestag has acquired a greater say over EU affairs (Photo: Deutscher Bundestag/Stephan Erfurt)

The Bundestag on Thursday (22 April) is set to hold a landmark vote on European affairs, with the first binding EU recommendation for its government to follow in respect to Iceland's membership bid to join the bloc.

Although not a controversial one, the vote is a premiere in German politics, after lawmakers acquired a greater say on the government's EU policies. These extra powers were key for the Bundestag last year to approve the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's new legal framework, which the German constitutional court said did not provide enough parliamentary oversight.

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While Iceland's accession is a no-brainer for Berlin lawmakers, who are set to welcome the "stable parliamentary democracy" into the EU fold once talks are concluded, other countries in the enlargement pipeline could prove more of a headache, especially Turkey.

"Iceland is not Greece," the deputy leader of the Christian-Democrats Andreas Schockenhoff told Reuters, highlighting the consensus around Iceland's membership application, submitted to the EU last July.

The 350,000 strong north-Atlantic island has since made headlines with the volcano Eyjafjallajokull whose eruption created an ash cloud disrupting European air traffic for almost a week. A banking dispute with Britain and the Netherlands, who are demanding compensation losses incurred following the collapse of online bank Icesave, is also set to pose problems for the island's membership talks.

Back in Reykjavik, the two are being linked in a joke: As the Icelandic alphabet doesn't include the letter "C", note north Atlantic wags, when the British and Dutch asked for "cash", Icelanders gave them "ash."

German lawmakers are aware of the financial dispute, but say this may actually pose less of a problem than Iceland's insistance on a maintainence of whaling, which is taboo in the EU.

"This may be the biggest hurdle for membership," Ruprecht Polenz, head of the foreign affairs committee told Reuters.

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