Tuesday

17th May 2022

Iceland 'unwilling to share fishing resources' in EU

  • Fishing rights are set to dominate Iceland's EU negotiations (Photo: EUobserver)

Iceland is hoping to become a member of the EU within three years but will not give up its fishing resources as part of a deal, its foreign minister Ossur Skarpheoinsson said Thursday (23 July) after handing in the country's formal membership application.

Mr Skarpheoinsson, himself a former fisherman, said that fisheries would be the toughest area of negotiation with Brussels as the sparsely populated island "has its sustenance mainly from fisheries."

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

He pointed out that Iceland could teach the EU how to manage fishing resources noting that of the two cods stocks in the world that are on the increase, one is in Iceland.

The EU's 26 year old Common Fisheries Policy, maligned by environmentalists for being unsustainable, sees EU waters as a shared resources open to any member state and managed by quotas.

But the policy has decimated resources and each year results in millions of tonnes of fish thrown back into the sea on quota grounds - failures acknowledged in a damning paper by the EU fisheries commissioner earlier this year ahead of a planned 2012 overhaul of the policy.

Mr Skarpheoinsson said that Icelanders, for whom the issue is "emotional" and not just about economics, would be "quite angry" if they got a "rotten deal" on fish.

The minister noted that while there is an increasing tendency to think that sovereignty can only be protected if it is shared "that does not mean that (...) I am willing to share my fishing resources with anyone else."

But he said he trusted the ingenuity of the EU to "adapt existing rules without making lasting exemptions" noting that Iceland was particularly in favour of devolving decisions on fishing to the local level.

In marked contrast to more diffident applicant countries such as those from the Western Balkans, Iceland is keen to point out what its membership can bring to the EU, such as "experience and knowledge" in managing natural resources and using renewable energy.

Some 80 percent of the country's energy needs are met by renewable resources.

Membership in 2012

As a member of the EU's borderless Schengen area and the European Economic Area, Iceland has already taken on around 75 percent of the bloc's body of law, with Reykjavík hoping to wrap negotiations up by 2012.

"I very much hope that within three years, Iceland will be a new member of the European Union," said Mr Skarpheoinsson.

Aside from the contentious issues of fisheries and agriculture, Iceland also has to bring its laws into line with EU law on budgetary, institutional, research and education and foreign and security issues amongst other areas.

Welcoming the application, Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden, currently in charge of the EU, said the mood in the bloc towards Iceland's application is "positive." But he stressed that the bloc's new institutional rules, the Lisbon Treaty, have to be approved first.

EU foreign ministers, meeting Monday (27 July) are set to formally accept the application and send it for review by the European Commission, which will assess the steps needed for it to become an EU member.

On the basis of the commission's study, member states then decide when to open formal membership negotiations with Reykjavík.

However, final say on membership will rest with Icelanders themselves who will vote on the issue at the end of the process in a referendum. Fishermen and farmers are among the biggest opponents to EU membership, with parliament only narrowly agreeing last week to start the process with Brussels.

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