Despite tensions running high between European Union member states over the issue, Iceland’s mackerel dispute with the EU has no effect on the current state of negotiations, EU officials confirmed for Grapevine.
As reported, Iceland maintains a mackerel quota that they believe is sustainable, while EU leaders have said Iceland is overfishing the stocks. Last September, the EU parliament voted in favour of a number of punitive measures against Iceland and the Faeroe Islands over the dispute, although it remains up to the directorship to enforce them.
More recently, Minister of Industry and Innovation Steingrímur J. Sigfússon wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal wherein he took the position that Iceland is being unfairly punished, and that other countries have not shown a real willingness to reduce their own mackerel quotas.
Despite the situation, a number of EU officials the Grapevine spoke to confirmed that the mackerel dispute has no bearing on current EU accession negotiations.
Cristian Dan Preda, Iceland’s rapporteur for accession, told reporters in Brussels yesterday that “mackerel is not an issue of foreign affairs.” Director-General for Enlargement at the European Commission Stefan Sannino confirmed this, telling reporters, “[The mackerel dispute] has not excessively complicated the negotiation process.”
European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle reiterated these sentiments at a press conference today, saying that while the matter might have an effect on the general atmosphere of negotiations, it was not an issue that had a significant effect on accession talks.