Monday

26th Sep 2022

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.

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.

EU adding Bahamas to tax-haven blacklist

The EU is adding Anguilla, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands to its blacklist of tax-havens, in what some have called a "fig-leaf" exercise.

EU adding Bahamas to tax-haven blacklist

The EU is adding Anguilla, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands to its blacklist of tax-havens, in what some have called a "fig-leaf" exercise.

News in Brief

  1. Confirmed: EU drops call for 'independent' Abu Akleh probe
  2. EU plan to stop firework abuse in football stadiums
  3. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  4. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  5. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  6. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  7. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  8. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory
  2. EU mulls more police powers for west Africa missions
  3. EU fight on illegal fishing must move from paper to online
  4. EU adding Bahamas to tax-haven blacklist
  5. Czech presidency proposes fossil-fuel tax compromise
  6. Ukraine's cyber resistance is impressive - but hard to replicate
  7. 'Grazie Italia': Far-right wins power in Rome
  8. How the EU is failing to help the hippo

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us