Tag Archives: Iceland

Delegation to Switzerland, Iceland and Norway and European Economic Area (SINEEA)

The European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, but also Faroese Islands, Greenland and Lichtenstein has evolved with the mixing of different separate delegations. First, the delegation for relations with Switzerland was established in 1981, then with Norway in 1982, and then with Iceland in 1987. The European Economic Area Joint Parliamentary Committee (EEA JPC) was established in January 1994 in order to help to contribute more to the democratic control in the fields covered by the EEA Agreements.

Today these delegations have conflated into a single one called the DEEA delegation (also known as SINEEA).

The SINEEA delegation is responsible for the EP’s relations with the Nordic Council, the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (CPAR) and the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. The delegation has permanent seats in the latter, and is also responsible for the relations with the West Nordic Council (aforementioned Iceland, Greenland and the Faroese Islands).

DEEA meets with the EEA member states’ delegations once a year while the EEA JPC, which is composed of an equal number of members of the European Parliament and of the Parliaments of Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, meets twice a year.

For more information, please visit:

DEEA homepage

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”

The Arctic

The Arctic is a vast area covering more than a sixth of Earth’s inland, covering all 24 time zones and over 30 million square kilometres. Most of the Arctic is a vast 14 million square kilometre ocean surrounded by treeless permafrost. The Arctic is a truly unique, yet vulnerable region.

There are now approximately 4 million people living permanently in the Arctic, including over 30 indigenous nations. The Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states- the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland (a territory of Denmark) and the Russian Federation. Five of the Arctic states are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), three of which are also Member States of the EU.

All eight states are members of an institution known as the Arctic Council (AC), founded in 1996. It is a high-level intergovernmental forum, and while not a law-making or resource-distributing body, the AC has produced important analyses and recommendations on environment protection, resource management and guidelines for shipping among others.

The Arctic region is still not regulated by multilateral agreements, because it was never considered that it would become a navigable waterway or that the region would be exploited for business purposes. However, today it can be said that the Arctic region’s geopolitical and strategic importance is growing. This is symbolised by the planting of a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole in August 2007.

Although scientists are still arguing over exactly how fast the Arctic’s ice will melt, one thing is clear- the effects of climate change are impacting the region more than anywhere else in the world. Arctic average temperature has risen by twice the global average rise in the past 50 years. The old, thick, permanent ice cap is retreating. In 2007, for the first time in modern history, the deeper-water, northern, more direct route opened for navigation by non-icebreaking vessels.

Such impacts threaten to destroy the already rapidly changing and fragile ecosystem network. The situation with a retreating icecap is perhaps the most worrying, as it affects directly the natural habitat of the region, e.g. posing problems for polar bears’ feeding habits.

Arctic is economically attractive for the AC member states in four main aspects:

  • the exploitation of newly accessible oil and gas deposits (and maybe other minerals)
  • Transit shipping
  • Fisheries
  • Tourism

In November 2008, the European Commission adopted a document (“The European Union and the Arctic Region”). In addition to setting out EU interests and policy objectives in the region, the text also proposes measures and suggestions for EU Member States and EU institutions to respond to the challenges. It is the first step towards an EU-Arctic policy. EU’s main policy objectives are as follows:

  • Protecting and preserving the Arctic in unison with its population;
  • Promoting sustainable use of resources;
  • Contributing to enhanced Arctic multilateral governance.

The Iceland’s EU accession negotiations are currently on. As EU’s presence in the AC would increase with Iceland becoming a Member State of the EU, it is a strategically great chance to play a more active and constructive role in the Arctic region, also contributing 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 levels.

For more information, please read:

EU Maritime Affairs: “The EU and the Arctic region – Overview”
“European Parliament resolution of 9 October 2008 on Arctic governance” (PDF)
Europa: “The Arctic merits the European Union’s attention – first step towards an EU Arctic Policy”
Arctic Council homepage

About my activities

The European Parliament is directly elected institution, which represents about 500 million citizens and their interests which are of course very differing. The EP is in close co-operation with the European Commission and European Council; together they produce legislation on issues affecting our daily lives, for example environment protection, consumer rights, equality, transport and the free movement of people, capital and services. Not to mention human rights.

The subjects or topics I am engaged in are mainly connected to the committees and delegations I sit at, although these are rather close to my heart as well.

Among them is, for instance, Iceland, the country that 1st recognised the restoration of the independence of Estonia in 1991. Currently the negotiations on Iceland’s possible accession to the EU are being held. But does the small island-state itself event want to join? Recent polls have showed that people are rather sceptical, even the political groups in Althingi have been said to debate on the issue quite seriously. If Iceland were a Member State, its economic prospects might look better than they do currently in view of the so-called Icesave case, although the latter will not be tied to the negotiations. The EU on the other hand may have a stronger voice in the Arctic region. And this is a region that will attract very much attention in the years to come…

As former Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Estonia, I was appointed the Green shadow rapporteur in AFCO regarding the European External Action Service report. Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium, EPP) and Elmar Brok (Germany, S&D) were jointly writing the report on how the new “Ministry of Foreign Affairs EU” must be constructed. This involved months of work on when and where to emphasise Human Rights, how to set up crisis prevention and management, who should be in charge of the delegations, how to deploy development aid, how much and in what areas should the EP have control over their budget and so on.

Of course having such an institution as the EEAS is vital if the EU will want to speak with one voice on a global level – or with its neighbours, for that matter. The issue of energy security is the first practical challenge that comes to mind…

This autumn the European Parliament adopted the Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain, EPP) resolution on security of gas supply, which calls for the EU to introduce a regulation in order to further secure gas and energy supply in Europe. The document contains several methods and ideas on how to prevent future gas conflicts as seen in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian problems in recent years. This regulation would provide preventive safety measures to ensure that nobody would be left in to the cold.

This reminds that one has to think beyond (but not excluding) its national borders in Europe. Internet freedom and intellectual property rights are issues that affect us all, especially when EU will introduce reforms in this field in the near future regardless whether you are a consumer or a provider of Internet content, be it written articles, music or videos. How should the EU respond to illegal file sharing? We are living in the 21st century and we all download a variety of things from the net. But what about the people that provide the content? If we chose to restrict downloading in today’s form, what measures can be taken? To what extent can we monitor peoples’ activities online? As anyone may guess, these questions affect us all.

Should there be introduced any directives or regulations on a EU level that the citizens will regard unsuitable, lacking or simply bad and they wish to change it – or even call for creating an entirely new EU policy – they have the chance to do so with the European Citizen Initiative. This is a project going to be launched next year, with the aim of giving EU’s citizens the right to introduce an idea for new legislation by the Commission; the latter has to respond and justify its answer and action that will or will not follow.

This is undoubtedly a big step in the development of the citizen society, moreover that all people from all Member States can have a say. This all will have to follow strict rules that are currently in the making. For example, according to the latest state of play, at least 1 million signatures have to be collected from at least 1/3 of the Member States, plus the number of signatures has to be proportionate to the population of that state. This opens up an even greater window of opportunity for small countries. As for now, the setting up of the system continues.

Icelandic whales

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the 7th of July this year concerning the possible accession of Iceland to the European Union. Although the resolution was rather alright, several amendments had to be tabled. This time I decided to offer a helping hand not only to the Icelandic people, but also to the whales. The result was as follows:

“Insist that Iceland cease all whaling and drop all the reservations it has lodged with the International Whaling Commission;”

The resolution was very relevant in other areas as well, for example Iceland’s possible accession to the EU was not linked with the Icesave package, which would have been injustice carried out by a large state towards a smaller one.

For more information please visit:

EP press release

EP Resolution on Iceland’s application for membership of the European Union

Greens/EFA press release

Islandi liitumine ELiga

Hetkel on käimas ELiga liitumise läbirääkimised Islandiga. Ühinemine oleks, tugevdades Euroopa kohaleolekut Arktika Nõukogus veel enam, ELi strateegiliseks võimaluseks etendada Arktika piirkonnas aktiivsemat ja konstruktiivsemat rolli ja anda oma panus selle mitmepoolsesse haldamisse. Ühtlasi aitaks see lahendada ühiseid keskkonnaprobleeme ning suurendada ELi huvi Arktika ja selle kaitse vastu piirkondlikul ning rahvusvahelisel tasandil.

Juulikuu täiskogul Strasbourgis võeti 7. juulil vastu resolutsioon, millega Parlament tervitab Islandi võimalikku ELi 28ndaks liikmesriigiks. Saadikud tervitasid ELi liidrite hiljutist otsust alustada liitumisläbirääkimisi Islandiga, kes esitas Euroopa Liidu liikmeks astumise avalduse 2009. aastal. Parlament nõuab samas, et Island lõpetaks täielikult ELi seadusandlusega vastuolus oleva vaalapüügi ja loobuks kõikidest Rahvusvahelisele Vaalapüügikomisjonile esitatud reservatsioonidest.

Islandi liitumine võimaldaks ELil osaleda aktiivsemalt Arktika piirkonna tegevuses, öeldakse Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, RO) koostatud resolutsioonis, mis rõhutab ka riigi “tugevat demokraatlikku kultuuri”. Island kuulub juba praegu Schengeni alasse, on NATO liige ning tal on ELiga vabakaubandusleping alates 1973. aastast.

Icesave’i küsimuses rõhutab resolutsioon, et Island on kohustatud tagama miinimumhüvitised Icesave panga hoiustajatele Ühendkuningriigis ja Hollandis, nagu EFTA järelvalveamet ütles oma märgukirjas 26. mail. Peale Icesave panga kokkuvarisemist panid Islandi valijad 6. märtsil toimunud referendumil veto tagasimakse plaanile.

Kuigi Island on Euroopa majanduspiirkonna (EMP) liige ja järgib enamikku ELi õigusaktidest (eelkõige ühisturu valdkonnas), peab riik siiski oluliselt reformima oma finantsjärelvalvesüsteemi ülesehitust ja toimimist, ning ka seda, kuidas määratakse ametisse kohtunikud, prokurörid ja kõrgemad kohtuametnikud.

Islandiga tuleb põhjalikke läbirääkimisi pidada veel põllumajanduse, kalanduse, maksustamise, majandus-ja rahapoliitika ning välissuhete poliitika osas. Islandi jaoks on kõige murettekitavam teema kalandus, kuna vaalapüük  on Islandi kultuuris väga tähtis.

Islandi avalikkuse toetus ELi liikmelisusele on alates 2009. aasta suvest vähenenud, ning on karta, et see väheneb veelgi.. Islandi võimudelt palutakse seetõttu avaliku arutelu algatamist, et selgitada välja Islandi kodanike mured ELi liikmelisuse osas

Üks põhjuseid, miks Islandi avalikkuse toetusveelgi väheneda võib, on vaalapüüki puudutav muudatusettepanek eelmainitud resolutsioonis. Muudatusettepaneku autoriteks olid kaks Roheliste fraktsiooni Parlamendiliiget, Indrek Tarand ja Heidi Hauttala. Muudatusettepanek võeti juuli plenaaril ka vastu. Autorid ise kommenteerisid seda nii: “Nüüdsest panevad vaalad oma poegadele nimeks Indrek ja Heidi”.






Lisainfo ELi laienemise kohta: