17th May 2022

Iceland's EU bid causes division in Germany

Centre-right politicians from Germany's Christian Social Union (CSU) have spoken out against Iceland's bid to join the European Union.

"The EU cannot play saviour to Iceland's economic crisis," Markus Ferber, head of the CSU's members of the European parliament, told Suedduetsche newspaper over the weekend.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We should discuss the structure of the EU before we discuss expanding it," said Alexander Dobrindt, General Secretary of the CSU, which is the smaller sister party to German chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

The newspaper reports that the manifesto for both parties for the 27 September general election will indirectly oppose further EU enlargement, with the exception of Croatia.

The comments came as Iceland's parliament on Thursday narrowly agreed to make a bid for EU membership, a move that was immediately welcomed by the European Commission.

Enlargement has long been a sensitive issue among centre-right politicians in Germany, who are particularly opposed to Turkey joining the bloc.

The rhetoric increased in the run-up to the last month's European elections and is continuing ahead of September's vote.

The election campaigning also comes at a sensitive time in German-EU relations following a wide-reaching court verdict outlining relations between the country and the 27-nation bloc.

One of the consequences of the verdict will be a strengthened law on parliamentary oversight of EU integration beyond the Lisbon Treaty.

The CSU, which is angling to get the law to give German MPs a say over all of Berlin's negotiations in Brussels, also wants the legislation to state that further enlargement should only be approved by referendum.

The issue is one of several differences between the CSU and the governing CDU. German commentators suggest the CSU is testing to see if euroscepticism, until now almost a taboo in the country, is a vote winner.

Iceland's EU bid

Iceland's bid has also served to highlight how slowly progress towards the EU is for Western Balkan countries and Turkey.

Having taken on most of EU legislation through being a member of the European Economic Area and the bloc's borderless zone, actual negotiations with Iceland are expected to be rapid, except in the sensitive area of fishing rights.

However, Berlin and Paris have both made clear that there should be no further enlargement of the EU until its new rules, the Lisbon Treaty, are in force - ratification has yet to be completed in four countries.

It is also unclear whether the EU as a whole would accept that Iceland joins before Croatia, whose bid has been stalled due to a border dispute with Slovenia. Zagreb had been hoping to join in 2011, a date that now looks unlikely.

But even if negotiations with Reykjavik proceed quickly, Icelanders themselves will have the final say over EU membership in a referendum.

UK and EU edge closer to trade war over Northern Ireland

The EU warning comes after the UK government escalated the conflict over the Northern Ireland protocol — a set of post-Brexit trade rules — by saying it will unilaterally pass a law to change the EU-UK trade treaty.

EU not doing enough to help Ukraine, Yellen says

EU must increase funding to "help ensure Ukraine prevails over Putin's aggression," US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said in Brussels — but some EU leaders are starting to sound less warlike and have instead called for an early peace.

MEPs raise ambition on EU carbon market reform

MEPs on the environment committee agreed on reform of the European carbon market — including expanding it to buildings and transport. They also want to extend the scope of the carbon border tax, and phase out free permits by 2030.

News in Brief

  1. EU to protect Finland and Sweden until they join Nato
  2. Poland backs Hungary over frozen 'rule of law' EU funds
  3. EU to reduce size and scope of Mali military mission
  4. Band members testify about Bataclan attack
  5. German prosecutors want five years for alleged ex-Nazi guard
  6. UN urges Iran to halt execution of Swedish-Iranian academic
  7. EU: legal Russian gas payments possible, but not in roubles
  8. McDonald's to sell up and exit Russia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us