There has been much talk about Iceland’s decision to court the EU, after the Althingi voted in favour of submitting an application for membership on July 16th. All the talk lead to action when Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ossur Skarphedinsson, submitted a formal application for membership in the union to the President of the EU council, Carl Bildt, in Stockholm yesterday.
In a press release circulated shortly after the application was submitted, Minister Skarphedinsson wrote “this is a historic day for Iceland after years of discussions and debate. We see this as a logical next step in our approach to Europe, with which we have been cooperating for a long time.”
As Sweden currently holds the presidency of the EU, Bildt has vowed to grant Iceland’s application high-priority before their control is relinquished to Spain in January 2010. This is not to say that the rise of a new nation to presidency would thwart Iceland’s bid to join the EU family, as it has been made clear by influential politicians within EU member states that Iceland is a welcome addition to the union on account of what the nation can contribute in natural resources, renewable energy, environment and climate change. Furthermore, since Iceland is already signed on to the Schengen agreement and is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), it is already regarded as a pivotal member of European society.
Shortly following the Althingi’s favourable vote concerning EU membership Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party (Europe’s centre-right political family) made public his satisfaction with the decision. From Brussels Marten wrote in a press release that he believes Iceland has a place in the EU family and that Iceland’s interest in joining the union “proves that the European idea is reaching every corner of Europe and inspires hope, prospect, solidarity.”
Meanwhile, Southern Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, has made public their disapproval of Iceland’s bid to join the European Union, Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on the 17th. CSU leader Markus Ferber asserted that the EU couldn’t be responsible for rescuing Iceland from its current economic crisis.
These are the preliminary stages of Iceland’s road to the EU. Negotiations regarding the terms of membership will most likely not be complete until 2011, at which point the decision will be open to national referendum.