Icelandic Government Presents Europe Policy

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Icelandic Government Presents Europe Policy

By Zoë Robert
Alþingi, Iceland's parliament

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Earlier today, the Icelandic government presented a policy on Europe aimed at “reinforcing the representation of Iceland’s interests on the platform of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) and other current agreements between Iceland and the European Union,” as stated in a press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The press release can be read here below:

“The policy prioritizes efficient implementation of the EEA Agreement, including by improving consultation within the administration and with Alþingi. Independent, proactive and close cooperation with the EU and its Member States will continue to be a priority. The policy underlines the importance the government places on Iceland becoming involved in the EU legislative process at an earlier stage.

Among the aims of the policy are:

To make an evaluation of Iceland’s interests with regard to the EEA Agreement, to be presented in the autumn of 2014 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the agreement’s entry into force.

To establish a coordinating group, including representatives of business and of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, to identify opportunities in Europe with regard to current trade agreements.

To strengthen collaboration with Norway and Liechtenstein on EEA matters.

To prioritize continued strong Nordic and West Nordic collaboration to further reinforce the representation of Iceland’s interests in the European context.

To increase bilateral collaboration with other European states, in fields such as security, trade, science and culture.

The Government’s policy on Europe is accompanied by an action plan on the EEA Agreement which entails a campaign to analyze early EU rules under preparation in order to identify as soon as possible in the process major issues which might require special attention.  In 2014 the incorporation of acts into the EEA Agreement will be accelerated considerably and no later than the first half of 2015 the transposition deficit of EEA relevant acts will be brought below the 1% target. At the same time, no infringement cases due to lack of implementation will be brought before the EFTA Court.

The actions to be taken include:

The implementation of the EEA Agreement will appear regularly on the agenda of cabinet meetings.

A steering group will be set up for the implementation of the EEA Agreement, chaired by the Prime Minister’s Office and with the participation of the Alþingi Administration.

A liaison group will be set up for cooperation on EEA matters between the government and the social partners, with an emphasis analysis of EEA rules from tðhe point of view of Icelandic interests.

Icelandic cabinet ministers will attend all informal EU ministerial meetings they are invited to, with the particular aim of discussing the specific interests of Iceland that have been analyzed during the early stages of the EU legislative procedure.

Regular meetings will be set up between the EEA ministers of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein in connection with meetings of the EEA Council.”

Discussions on the EU issue are ongoing in Alþingi. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson reiterated the government’s position at a meeting yesterday, saying that “I still assume that one day people will vote on whether or not they want to join the EU at some point but one cannot expect a government which is opposed to membership continues accession talks.” 

Around 49,000 people have signed a petition calling for a national referendum on whether or not to continue EU accession talks. The government has in recent weeks indicated that it will withdraw Iceland’s application without putting the issue up for a referendum. 

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