As Iceland continues accession talks with the European Union, the possibility has gained the attention of other Nordic countries, who believe Iceland joining the EU would have a positive effect on the region.
Eyjan reports that Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson, Iceland’s ambassador to Sweden, speaking at a meeting entitled Norden i Fokus, told participants, “We either join the EU, or take the risk that the EEA agreement will become obsolete. This is why it was time to send in an application [for accession] and see whether Icelanders could arrange an agreement that would satisfy them.”
EU expansion manager Axel Walldén said that of all the matters brought up in accession talks, three main points from Icelanders have proven to be the most contentious so far: fishing, agriculture, and protection of natural resources. However, he added that he felt Iceland has a strong chance of ultimately being accepted into the EU.
Oscar Wåglund Söderström, State Secretary to Minister for EU-affairs Birgitta Ohlsson, told attendees, “We are in agreement on many issues, among them transparency. Iceland would be a given ally in the modernization of the EU, alongside countries such as Finland and Denmark.” He added that other Nordic countries would benefit from Iceland’s expertise in sustainable fishing, green energy, its old democratic tradition and its experience near the polar region.
Norwegian political scientist Ulf Sverdrup added that his countrymen have been following talks between Iceland and the EU closely, even though Norway has twice voted against joining the organization. “Norway is also a part of the EEA, along with Iceland and Liechtenstein,” he said in part. “Technically, business could continue without Iceland, but Iceland’s participation in the EU could have an effect on the agreement. If Iceland ultimately votes against joining, there is the risk that the EU would withdraw from the EEA agreement.”
The EU discussion in Iceland has not been particularly active lately, but the last polls on the matter showed increasing support for joining, even if the majority remains opposed.