Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

Iceland halts EU talks as elections loom

Iceland's government has suspended negotiations to join the EU ahead of parliamentary elections in April that could see a eurosceptic government elected with a mandate to halt membership talks.

The government said in a statement that a deal would not be reached in time, commenting that "it is now clear that the negotiations will not lead to an Accession Treaty during the present electoral term."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Iceland - a bumpy EU path (Photo: biologyfishman)

Elections are scheduled for April 27, with opinion polls indicating that the centre-left coalition government is lagging around 15 points behind the conservative Independence party, which opposes EU membership and is widely expected to form a coalition with the liberal Progressive party.

The governing coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats and the Left-Green party swept to power in 2009 in the aftermath of a banking crisis which saw Iceland's three main commercial banks collapse in 2008 with liabilities of over ten-times the size of the country's annual GDP.

Since the crisis, Iceland's debt to GDP ratio soared from 25 percent in 2007 to 130 percent in 2011 after needing an €8 billion euro bailout to avoid defaulting on its debts.

The country is also still facing court actions in the court of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) over the compensation of over 500,000 EU depositors who lost their savings in Icelandic banks following the crisis.

Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir submitted the country's EU membership application in July 2009, promising to hold a referendum on the completion of negotiations.

Iceland membership of EFTA already requires it to adopt large chunks of EU single market law, but it has faced difficulties in reaching an agreement with EU officials over fisheries policy - traditionally the main branch of the Icelandic economy - and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The government said that it had addressed 29 of the 33 chapters of the EU's rule-book known as the acquis communautaire in relation to the membership talks. However, it acknowledged that "there have been delays in opening negotiations on important chapters such as fisheries as the EU has postponed finalising work on its screening report on the chapter for many months."

"Regarding the 16 chapters which now stand open, Iceland‘s negotiating committee and experts will continue their cooperation with the EU," said the government statement but added that this would not require "further government or parliamentary decisions."

Peter Stano, spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, said that the EU executive was hopeful that talks would resume.

The commission "continues to be convinced that the EU accession of Iceland would be of mutual benefit and remains committed to accompanying Iceland on its path towards EU membership," he said.

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  2. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  3. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  4. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  5. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  7. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  11. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe