Monday, 17 November 2008

Iceland to apply for EU membership in 2009?

With the collapse of the Icelandic banking system there has been much discussion in the Icelandic press as well as our own as to whether the Icelandic government will lodge a formal application next year to join the EU possibly in 2011 and adopt the euro. Many Icelanders believe that that the financial crisis could at least have been alleviated had Iceland been in the EU and part of the eurozone. A survey published at the end of October showed that 68.8% of Iceland’s population would like to see their country joining the EU (compared with 55.1% in February). A previous poll carried out just before the start of the financial crisis showed that 49% of Iceland’s population supported EU membership with 27% against and 24% undecided.

At the end of last week the Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde, who leads the centre-right Independence party which is opposed to EU membership, announced he was setting up a special commission to investigate the benefits of Iceland joining the EU. It will report back to the party’s annual congress which has been brought forward from October 2009 to January 2009 and it will then be for the Prime Minister to take a decision.

While this commission will undoubtedly be looking at the implications of different EU policy areas for Iceland such as fisheries, regional policy, energy, the single biggest stumbling block to Iceland’s membership of the EU remains the common fisheries policy as presently constituted.

Reform of the CFP is due to get underway early next year with the Commission’s publication of a public consultation (Green paper) in February and a legislative proposal on the reform of the common organization of the market is expected in October 2009.

The Commission is already making supportive noises saying that it would warmly welcome such a move and noting that Iceland has already implemented perhaps two-thirds of the acquis communitaire as a member of the European Economic Area. However, with the possibility of Iceland seeking to join the EU the need for the CFP to be radically reformed becomes all the more urgent.

What will be interesting to see is whether any possible EU membership application from Iceland encourages Norway to consider joining Iceland in applying for membership? If that happens, what then will become of the EEA?

No comments: