27th Oct 2016

'EU clock is ticking,' Iceland told

  • Mackerel is a sensitive issue for Iceland (Photo: European Commission)

The EU Tuesday (16 July) told Iceland it is not going to wait around forever while the island weighs up whether it is worth joining the bloc.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the decision to open membership negotiations with Iceland was still "valid." But he added: "The clock is ticking. It is in the interests of all that this decision is taken without further delay."

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.

He urged Iceland to make a decision on EU membership that "is taken on the basis of proper reflection, and in an objective, transparent, serene manner."

Barroso was standing alongside Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who was on his first trip to Brussels since his eurosceptic Progressive Party did well in April elections.

On being chosen to be prime minister in May, Gunnlaugsson immediately called a halt to the island's accession talks, in a first-of-its-kind snub for the EU.

Responding to Barroso, the Icelandic leader said he had quizzed the commission president on the future of the EU, with the bloc still struggling to fully stabilize the euro by taking further integrative steps.

"We are not only discussing the past four or five years, but also the future and how the European Union is likely to develop in the future," said Gunnlaugsson.

Matters are set to become clearer in autumn. Iceland's parliament will at that point vote on a report on "developments so far" with the EU and on the "development of the European Union itself."

"After debate in parliament next autumn we will see how things progress," said Gunnlaugsson, whose coalition government has promised that membership talks can only be restarted if agreed by referendum.

But the visit to Brussels came as Icelanders are being reminded of EU powers in fishing policy - one of the most contentious issues for the island.

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki Monday said the commission would decide by the end of the month on whether to sanction Reykjavik for its decision to raise the quotas for mackerel.

Barroso reiterated the point on Tuesday. "We cannot support unilateral action by our partner countries," he said.

Gunnlaugsson responded that the EU should rather look at replenishing its depleting stocks, something Iceland could "assist" it with and urged member states to base their arguments on "science."

Iceland argues it can increase its quotas as more mackerel are migrating northwards due to warmer seas.

Fishing rights were always expected to be a major issue in membership discussions between Brussels and Reykjavik but talks were suspended before the subject came to the table.

Since becoming prime minister, Gunnlaugsson has said that EU demands for a reduction in mackerel quotas underlines the importance of sovereignty.


Iceland's not-so-quiet revolution

In the space of three years, Iceland's main parties have seen their vote decimated, and new parties may well take almost half the electorate in Saturday's election.

Belgians meet for fresh Canada talks

Negotiators made headway on Tuesday but failed to break the deadlock on the EU-Canada free-trade agreement, which is still blocked by Belgium's French-speaking entities.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  2. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  3. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  4. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  5. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  6. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  7. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  8. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  9. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  10. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  11. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  12. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum

Latest News

  1. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  2. Poland defies EU on rule of law
  3. Belgium breaks Ceta deadlock
  4. Left MEPs thwarting Dieselgate probe, say right MEPs
  5. Cars should be allowed to exceed emissions limits, say experts
  6. EU case against Google is bad for developers
  7. Privacy activists mount court challenge to EU-US data pact
  8. Thousands of Nato soldiers go to Baltic states, Romania