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European Union; Iceland: Opening of Accession Negotiations

(June 18, 2010) Iceland's application to join the European Union, formally submitted on July 27, 2009, is moving the country a step closer to eventually joining the European Union as a full member. The European Council concluded on June 14, 2010, that Iceland meets the political criteria for EU membership set by the European Council during its presidency in Copenhagen in 1993. Iceland is already a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), and since 2008 – when Iceland experienced a severe economic and financial crisis, and its three major banks were put under the control of the Icelandic Financial Authorities – Iceland has been keen on becoming an EU candidate for eventual membership.

The EU Members affirmed that Iceland's weakness in the area of financial services, as identified in the European Commission's opinion on Iceland's application for future accession, will be under serious scrutiny. Additional contentious issues that will be extensively debated include the fisheries policy espoused by the Icelandic government and the outstanding bilateral disputes with the Netherlands and Great Britain. Following the banking collapse in 2008, in which close to 300,000 people in Great Britain and 128,000 people in the Netherlands lost part of their savings, Icelanders, in a referendum held in March 2010, rejected the ratification of an agreement to repay Britain and Netherland more than US$5 billion dollars. Another hurdle in the path of Iceland's effort to join the EU is the view of its citizens, the majority of whom have consistently indicated in polls that they are opposed to joining the EU. (EU to Open Membership Talks with Iceland, EURACTIV (June 5, 2010),