Friday

22nd Oct 2021

Iceland membership talks formally begin Tuesday

  • Fishing rights are expected to be one of the toughest areas of negotiation (Photo: European Commission)

At their last meeting before the summer break, EU foreign ministers on Monday (26 July) gave the greenlight for the start of negotiations on Iceland's membership bid.

Talks will formally begin on Tuesday. The small north Atlantic island, with a population of just 320,000, has aligned itself with many EU laws and is seen as fitting snugly with the slightly more ineffable European 'norms', but negotiations on a few key issues - such as fishing rights and its traditional whale hunting - are expected to be difficult.

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

Iceland, whose fishing policies have largely been a success in terms of sustainability, is keen to see that its rich fishing waters are not over-fished by EU member states. The EU's common fisheries policy has led to the severe depletion of stocks in western Europe.

"Efforts will have to be made by Iceland," Belgian foreign minister Steven Vanackere said after chairing the meeting in Brussels. "Think of environment, think of whale hunting."

In addition, the UK and the Netherlands have linked actual membership with resolution of a dispute over the €3.8 billion in British and Dutch savings, lost in the banking crisis that consumed the nation in 2008.

After the Icelandic Icesave internet bank collapsed two years ago, depositers in the UK and the Netherlands were compensated by their governments. The Hague and London now are demanding Reykjavik pay them back.

"It's clear that all the chapters need to be discussed ... When the last chapter isn't resolved, nothing is resolved," said Mr Vanackere, when specifically asked about whether the Icesave issue could stymie talks.

Icelanders themselves in a recent referendum rejected a payout plan that would have cost each household tens of thousands of euros. The disagreement has soured the population's sentiment towards the EU. Immediately after the crisis, a majority of Icelanders looked to the EU as a solution to their problems, but the bitter fight with London and the Hague has slashed support for EU membership on the island.

In addition to potential controversial policy issues, there is also the increasingly negative opinion of Icelanders towards EU membership.

"I don't have the impression from the opinion polls that the Icelanders themselves are very favourable: that's the problem," said France's EU Minister Pierre Lellouche.

"Popular opinions have to be taken on board, and you have to communicate the value [of becoming an EU member]," said Mr Vanackere.

A June poll showed that public opposition to joining the EU has risen to 60 percent. In November last year, it was 54 percent.

The negotiation process is expected to take up to 18 months. EU legislation covers 35 different areas, known as chapters, ranging from the justice and home affairs to environment, energy, social and transport policy.

Through its membership of the European Free Trade Association and the Schengen border-free zone, many of Iceland's laws already comply with those of the EU.

Croatia and Turkey have also opened membership negotiations with the EU. Zagreb is expected to conclude talks in 2011 while Ankara's talks are proceeding much more slowly.

Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit

The summit discussion comes after the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this week the bloc's executive will take action against Warsaw, for challenging the supremacy of EU law.

Romania pushes live-animal exports despite EU criticism

Romania was criticised during a crisis in the Suez canal earlier this year when the country was the source of 130,000 of the 200,000 live animals stranded without food and water during the shipping bottleneck.

Opinion

MEPs poised to vote blank cheque for Europol using AI tools

Fair Trials, EDRi and other civil society organisations are calling on MEPs to hold true to protect our fundamental rights. We urge MEPs to vote against the revision of Europol's mandate, which distinctly lacks meaningful accountability and safeguards.

Opinion

MEPs poised to vote blank cheque for Europol using AI tools

Fair Trials, EDRi and other civil society organisations are calling on MEPs to hold true to protect our fundamental rights. We urge MEPs to vote against the revision of Europol's mandate, which distinctly lacks meaningful accountability and safeguards.

Romania pushes live-animal exports despite EU criticism

Romania was criticised during a crisis in the Suez canal earlier this year when the country was the source of 130,000 of the 200,000 live animals stranded without food and water during the shipping bottleneck.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks
  2. Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit
  3. MEPs back EU food reform, despite strong lobbying
  4. EU calls for end to gas price speculation
  5. Romania pushes live-animal exports despite EU criticism
  6. MEPs poised to vote blank cheque for Europol using AI tools
  7. EU re-launches mammoth fiscal debates
  8. Czech politics in limbo over Zeman health crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us