Friday

20th Sep 2019

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.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Opinion

EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us