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25th Jun 2022

Iceland to table bill on EU membership talks

  • Reykjavik - the EU has said that if it applied, Iceland could join the bloc by 2011 (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

Iceland is to ask its parliament to approve the launch of membership talks with the European Union, the country's prime minister announced on Wednesday (6 May).

"There will be a government resolution tabled [on EU talks]," Social-democratic prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir told Icelandic state television.

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Ms Sigurdardottir did not give any details on when the bill authorising the start of EU membership talks would be presented to the deputies, but it is likely to happen when parliament convenes next week, Reuters reports political sources as saying.

Iceland's new government was elected on 26 April, when the centre-left Social Democrats and far-left and ecologist Left Green Movement won a clear majority after 18 years of centre-right government, which voters blamed for the country's wrecked economy.

The Social Democrats are strongly in favour of Iceland's EU membership and when elected, Ms Sigurdardottir said she wanted to start the application process "within weeks."

The Left Greens, on the other hand, have been much more cautious, saying the EU is too undemocratic and "neo-liberal."

Earlier this week, Ms Sigurdardottir said she hoped the two parties could agree on the terms of a coalition by the weekend, with the EU issue being the thorniest in their talks.

According to Icelandic media, the parties would settle their different views on EU accession by letting the parliament – the Althing – deal with it.

But Left-Green leader and finance minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said that "nothing has been finally decided in this."

Meanwhile, many of the around 320,000 Icelanders have been warming up to the idea of starting EU membership talks in the wake of the global economic crisis.

A Gallup poll on Wednesday showed almost two thirds (61.2%) of Icelanders in favour of the move and 29.6 percent against, although the question of actual membership still divides them.

For its part, the European Commission has indicated that if Reykjavik applied for membership, its accession process would be short and it could become an EU member by 2011.

The country already applies some 75 percent of EU legislation through its existing membership in The European Economic Area (EEA) along with Liechtenstein and Norway.

"Iceland is one of the oldest democracies in the world and its strategic and economic positions would be an asset to the EU," enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said in January.

"If Iceland applies shortly and the negotiations are rapid, Croatia and Iceland could join the EU in parallel," he added.

Croatia is expected to end EU negotiations by the end of this year and join the bloc in 2011.

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