Thursday

16th Aug 2018

Icelandic minister wants to finish EU talks in two months

  • From a demonstration around the referendum on the Icesave-law in March (Photo: Ane Cecilie Blichfeldt /norden.org)

Iceland officially started face-to-face negotiations with officials of the European Commission on Monday (15 November), but the country's justice minister is already calling for the talks to be concluded swiftly in two months followed by a snap referendum to bring closure to the issue.

Normally, simultaneously to talks, accession candidate countries steadily adjust their legislation to ensure they are in line with EU law.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

However, on Saturday, justice minister Ogmundur Jonasson, of the Left Green Movement, the hard-left coalition partner of the governing Social Democrats, said in an article in Icelandic daily Morgunbladid that he wants the two sides to sit down for what he called "real negotiations" and reach an offer they can give to the Icelandic people to consider in a referendum.

Only after a Yes vote, should the country then begin to adjust its laws, and not during the negotiation process itself, he said.

If talks were stripped down to this, rather than the lengthy time it takes to change domestic laws, the negotiations could be concluded in two months, he said.

"Why not skip the process of adjustment and just conclude our discussions? Finish them in two months and vote for the final product? This is possible."

"The long-term adjustment process ... was formulated as a consultation process with eastern European countries, which had to completely transformed their infrastructure, while we have adapted ourselves to the EU internal market."

Describing how the EU bid "fits into the dreams of the old colonial powers powers of Europe," he asked in the article: "Is this democracy? Tough questions arise. What are 300,000 people [the population of Iceland is 320,000] against the empire with a thick wallet?"

On Monday, the "screening process" of Iceland officially started in Brussels, in which experts from Iceland and the European Commission meet to discuss, chapter by chapter, legislation in Iceland with the aim of defining outstanding issues.

Subsequently, Iceland and the EU will formulate their negotiating positions and then actual negotiations on individual chapters will subsequently commence.

The commission however rejected the justice minister's suggestion for a fast-track process.

"Our general rules are very clear, and are the same for all candidates," enlargement spokeswoman Angela Filota told EUobserver: There is no short-cut and no fast-track negotiations. Each country joins when it is 100 percent ready."

Despite the bitterness of some of the discourse, in more positive news for the north Atlantic nation's EU application, last week, UK secretary of state for defence, Liam Fox, described the use of anti-terrorism legislation to freeze Icelandic assets in the wake of its economic collapse by the previous government as "brutish" and should never happen again.

Reykjavik has been locked in a dispute with the UK and the Netherlands over compensation by the two EU governments to domestic savers with collapsed Icelandic online bank Icesave. Last June, Iceland reached an agreement with London and the Hague to pay them back €3.8 billion they used to compensate British and Dutch savers who lost money in October 2008 when their accounts with the online savings account Icesave were frozen, following the collapse of the parent company Landsbanki.

However, due to the onerous terms of repayment, which by some estimates would have required every Icelandic household having to contribute around €45,000, citizens later rejected the agreement in a referendum.

Mr Fox's comments were seen by Reykjavik as a signal of a thawing in the Icesave dispute.

'Connectivity' trumps enlargement at Balkans summit

At the first summit in 15 years with Western Balkan leaders, EU chiefs made it clear that enlargement is not at hand - but offered economic incentives to keep the region close to the bloc.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

News in Brief

  1. Salvini questions EU 'constraints' after bridge collapse
  2. Bosnian Serbs to rewrite 1995 Srebrenica genocide report
  3. Malta to allow Aquarius migrants to disembark
  4. Juncker sends condolences over Genoa bridge collapse
  5. EU pledges €500,000 more for Indonesian earthquake island
  6. EU commission in talks with states on new Aquarius migrants
  7. Man held after car crashes into UK parliament security barrier
  8. Brexit delays better readability of medicines' instructions

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  2. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate
  3. EU court to hear citizens' climate case against EU
  4. How long can Bulgaria keep facing both East and West?
  5. EU commission steps up legal case against Poland
  6. Separation of powers instead of 'Spitzenkandidat' process
  7. Revealed: ExxonMobil's private dinner with Cyprus' top EU brass
  8. What Salvini teaches us about Operation Sophia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us