Iceland's EU accession

The Iceland’s EU accession negotiations are currently on. As by this accession the EU’s presence in the AC would, it is a strategically great chance to play a more active and constructive role in the Arctic region, also contributing greatly to the multilateral governance. It could also help to solve collective environmental problems and increase EU’s interest for the Arctic and for its protection on both regional and international level.

A resolution on Iceland’s accession was adopted in July plenary and therewith the EP welcomed the prospect of Iceland becoming the 28th Member State of the EU. Iceland filed its accession application in July 2009. At the same time, Parliament asked Iceland to cease all whaling which is in contradiction with EU laws and that the preservations the country has lodged with the International Whaling Commission should be dropped.

Iceland’s accession would allow the EU to play a more active role in the Arctic- region which is already of growing importance for the EU (and for the rest of the world). Iceland is part of the Schengen Area, is a NATO member country and signatory of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA).

Although Iceland is already cooperating closely with the EU as a signatory of the Schengen Agreements and as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), having therefore adopted a significant part of the acquis communautaire (notably single market legislation), the state still need to substantially reform the organisation and functioning of its financial supervisory system, and the way judges, prosecutors and supreme judicial authorities are appointed.

The two major issues during the accession talks are banking and fisheries. Other policy areas that will also have to be fully negotiated with Iceland are agriculture, taxation, economic and monetary policy and external relations. One of the most challenging and sensitive issues for both Iceland and the EU member states is whaling. Whaling plays an important role in Iceland’s traditional coastal culture and Icelanders tend to perceive the accession to the EU as a great threat to their national identity.

The support of the public in Iceland has gradually decreased since the summer of 2009, and there are signs that let us believe it will decrease even more. Therefore Iceland’s authorities have been asked to start a public discussion in order to find out what are the main concerns for Icelanders regarding the membership.

One of the reasons why the public support for the accession could decrease is an amendment about whaling made in the resolution. The amendment was made by two MEPs from the Greens, Indrek Tarand and Heidi Hauttala (Finland). The amendment was adopted in the July plenary.

Commenting on the resolution, the authors said:

“This is a great result for all those who have campaigned long and hard against whaling all over the world. This resolution sends a strong signal that if Iceland is serious about membership of the European Union, it must respect international standards. We hope that Iceland will now join the rest of Europe in seeking to put an end to this inhumane practice in the rest of the world”

And they added that from now on, whales would be naming their sons Indrek and Heidi.

For more information, please read:
European Parliament: “European Parliament resolution of 7 July 2010 on Iceland’s application for membership of the European Union”
Green EFA: “Whaling: Parliament insists that Iceland cease all Whaling at EU accession”
Europa: “EU opens accession negotiations with Iceland.”
Euractiv: “EU kick-starts Iceland’s accession.”

Additional information on EU enlargement:
Europa: “EU enlargement.”
European Parliament: “EU enlargement”