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By Dr. Dilek Yiğit | 20 September 2010
On 17 June 2010, the European Council approved the start of accession talks with Iceland by stating that “The European Council welcomes the Commission opinion on Iceland’s application for membership of the EU and the recommendation that accession negotiations should be opened. Having considered the application on the basis of the opinion and its December 2006 conclusions on the renewed consensus for enlargement, it notes that Iceland meets the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and decides that accession negotiations should be opened”(1) in the Presidency Conclusions.
As known, Iceland has been coping with the economic crisis and its consequences for domestic and international politics in recent years. Due to the economic crisis, Iceland’s government resigned and early parliamentary elections were called. General elections took place in April 2009, and centre-left government won a victory. On a proposal by the new government, the Parliament of Iceland voted in favour of applying to join the European Union. With regard to the Parliament’s decision, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said “This is probably the most historic vote in the history of our parliament”(2). After the Parliament’s vote in favour of applying for membership, Iceland officially applied to join the European Union on 16 July 2009.
Iceland’s application for membership may be regarded as a result of the economic downturn on the grounds that Iceland needs the European Union for help. Nonetheless, the foreign minister of Iceland, Össur Skarphedinsson rejected that the economic crisis is the main reason for application for membership, and put that ” The financial crisis may have re-triggered the debate, but Iceland’s application for EU membership is driven by a deeper, longer-term logic”(3).
Iceland’s application was welcomed by the Union, and the commissioner Olli Rehn said after receiving the news, “I am pleased that EU’s enlargement agenda may soon extend to Europe’s north-western corner as well, with Iceland, a country with deep democratic traditions, in addition to our continued commitment to South East Europe”(4).
On receiving the application by Iceland, the Council of the European Union requested the Commission to prepare its Opinion on Iceland’s application for membership(5). Subsequently, the Commission assessed Iceland’s application for EU membership on the basis of the criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and submitted its Opinion on 24 February 2010.
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* Published in the Third Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).