Iceland’s EU application possibly still valid

Photo: Eggert Jó­hann­es­son

Photo: Eggert Jó­hann­es­son Photo: Eggert Jó­hann­es­son

There is no precedent for the way in which Iceland has handled its application to join the European (EU) and there is no way of knowing how things might pan out.

This is the assessment of Matthias Brinkmann, Head of the EU Delegation to Iceland, in an interview with Icelandic daily Morgunblaðið.

Was the application actually withdrawn?

Iceland formally applied to join the now 28-member bloc back in 2009. The subsequent arrival of a Eurosceptic government led to the freezing of accession negotiations in 2013. Previous examples of halting EU membership talks exist, i.e. Switzerland in 1992 and Malta 1996.

In March this year, Iceland’s Foreign Minister delivered a letter to the European Commission and the Presidency of the European Council announcing that the government of Iceland had decided that it did not intend to restart accession negotiations with the EU.

President Grímsson and Head of the EU Delegation to Iceland, ...

President Grímsson and Head of the EU Delegation to Iceland, Matthias Brinkmann. Photo: forseti.is

Although Iceland has been removed from EU websites as a ‘candidate country’, a Commission spokesperson told Morgunblaðið at the time that the Minister’s letter was not tantamount to a formal withdrawal of Iceland’s application.

This view was shared by Speaker of the Icelandic Parliament (‘Alþingi’) Einar K. Guðfinnsson. Recent opinion polls suggest that a majority of Icelanders want to see a national referendum on the question of whether or not EU accession negotiations should be continued.

Uncertainty about the current status

“Nobody knows what will happen [to Iceland’s EU application],” says Brinkmann.

It could be that a new pro-EU government could simply reactivate the 2009 application and pick up negotiations where they were left off. Alternatively, it may have to submit a brand new application.

“The decision on what Iceland would need to do would be taken by the Member States of the European Union, not the EU institutions,” says Brinkmann.

The island nation of Malta froze EU negotiations in 1996, ...

The island nation of Malta froze EU negotiations in 1996, but was a member by 2004. Photo: Wikipedia/Briangotts

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