On-And-Off Relationship: Iceland Pondering to Restart the EU Membership Talks

Written by | Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Ireland may again be a step closer to becoming a new member of the European Union. The head of one of the three parties, Ottarr Proppe, involved in the talks to form a coalition in Iceland said that the country could have another referendum on the membership in the European Union, if a coalition is finally formed. Iceland has been involved in the protracted political talks since the October elections when none of the contesting parties won a majority. Thus, the current negotiations are already the second attempt by the three parties to form a government. The first round of talks collapsed in November due to disputes over relations with the EU, fishing and institutional reform.

Mr. Proppe as the leader of the Bright Future party, Iceland’s liberals, said that the talks that started on Monday (2 January) have so far been more successful on the issue of fisheries and EU membership. “We have reached a certain settlement on ideas, including this one,” Mr. Proppe commented. Interestingly, although majority of the population of more than 330,000 are against the EU membership, they support having a referendum on the issue. Iceland has had a sort of an on-and-off relationship with the EU since 2009 when Reykjavik initiated EU membership talks after an economic collapse. However, Iceland suspended the negotiations in 2013 and withdrew the application in 2015 in an official letter to the European Commission.

Iceland is nevertheless already very well integrated with the European structures. It is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), which excludes the controversial topic of fisheries. Reykjavik also frequently consults Brussels on foreign policy and also participates in EU civilian peacekeeping missions. The country is also part of the Schengen area and several thousand Icelanders travel to, study or work in the EU countries.

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