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Iceland: Parliament Signals Agreement on Joining European Union

(July 21, 2009) Under the Treaty on European Union (EU) any European State may apply for membership of the EU (subject to criteria set by the European Council at its 1993 summit in Copenhagen). All EU Members (27 at present) must unanimously agree on the candidate country becoming a full member. (See, e.g., Accession Criteria (Copenhagen Criteria), EUROPA Glossary website, (last visited July 20, 2009).)

On July 16, 2009, the Parliament of Iceland, a small country with a population of 320,000 people, adopted a proposal to begin accession negotiations with the European Union. The decision of the 63-member Parliament passed with a narrow majority of 33 votes to 28; two Members abstained.

Those parliamentarians who were in favor of Iceland's future accession to the EU claimed that such a move could facilitate Iceland's recovery from the deep economic crisis into which it plunged when its banks collapsed last year. Those against reiterated the often cited grounds that accession would limit Iceland's sovereignty and harm its fishing industry through the introduction of fishing quotas.

From the EU's point of view, as expressed by Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, the approval of Iceland's Parliament is “a sign of the vitality of the European project and indicative of the hope that Europe represents.” (Lucia Kubosova, Brussels Hails Iceland's Decision on EU Bid, EU OBSERVER, July 17, 2009, available at However, Germany's center-right politicians of the Christian Social Union party (CSU) expressed their opposition to the decision of Iceland's Parliament, on the grounds that “[t]he EU cannot play saviour to Iceland's economic crisis.” The CSU reportedly is against enlargement in general and in particular opposes Turkey joining the EU. (Honor Mahony, Iceland's EU Bid Causes Division in Germany, EUOBSERVER, July 20, 2009, available at