Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt announced at a press conference after a meeting between the Nordic foreign ministers in Reykjavík yesterday that during their upcoming six-month presidency of the European Union, Sweden will prioritize Iceland’s admission.
The EU Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
“What we will do when we receive the application is to submit it to the commission as soon as possible so that the work that needs to be undertaken to make a decision on the membership negotiations can begin,” Bildt said, according to Morgunbladid.
“We will obviously have to convince all the 27 member state. We will also have to process applications from other states, such as Alabnia,” Bildt added. “However […] we would prioritize a membership application from Iceland because of the EEA agreement.”
When asked whether he supported the view of Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb that enlargement fatigue within the EU might delay the application process, Bildt replied, “It could prove a hindrance but I don’t consider it impassible.”
“I also believe that enlargement fatigue doesn’t apply as much to Iceland since one cannot question the position of democracy in the country,” Bildt added.
“Iceland has, despite economic difficulties, a developed economy and is also part of the EEA agreement. With that, Iceland has already completed three quarters of the journey to a merge with Europe,” the minister said, referring to those sections of law that have already been agreed to in Iceland through the EEA agreement.
When asked whether he finds it likely that Iceland will be granted admission to the EU, Bildt stated confidently, “Certainly. There is no doubt in my mind about that. If this is what Iceland wants then it will happen. The traditional two years of difficult negotiations will be launched.”
Stubb, the Finnish foreign minister, was not as confident, “I would like to see Iceland join the EU as quickly as possible, but I emphasize that you shouldn’t have too high expectations. This is a difficult process.”
When asked, Stubb explained that the payment of the Icesave debt and possible admission to the EU were connected.
On why the Nordic countries hadn’t supported Iceland’s view that the Icelandic nation did not have an obligation to repay the Icesave deposits, Stubb said it wasn’t the role of the Finnish foreign minister to get involved with internal affairs in Iceland.
Stubb then added, “My argument is that every decision which makes it easier for Iceland to join the EU should be celebrated.”
When asked whether a solution to the Icesave dispute had been a prerequisite for dispatching the loan from the other Nordic countries to Iceland, both Bildt and Per Stig Moeller, the Danish foreign minister, stated the two matters were unrelated.
However, Foreign Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Stoere said in an interview on Stöd 2 that the solution of the Icesave dispute had been an important milestone in the disbursement of the loan.
The primary reason for the meeting between the Nordic foreign ministers in Reykjavík yesterday was to discuss the Thorvald Stoltenberg report on Nordic cooperation on foreign and security policy.