This week saw the publication of a report by the University of Iceland’s Center for International Affairs on the negotiation process between Iceland and the European Union. The Icelandic Chamber of Commerce promptly published a short summary of the report, ruv.is reports.
During Iceland’s 18 months of negotiations with the EU, following their bid in 2009 to become a member state, many issues had been discussed and negotiated. Of the 33 accession chapters defined in the current Lisbon treaty, 27 chapters had been opened during the negotiation process and Iceland had put forward its position in 29 chapters, leaving just four still closed. The negotiations were suspended indefinitely in early 2013.
Various reasons caused the accession negotiations to take a longer time than expected. A mixture of the recent enlargement process of the EU, the global economic situation, the domestic political situation in Iceland and the lack of solidarity within the Icelandic government caused delays while the mackerel dispute prevented the fisheries chapter from being opened. Up to the point when negotiations were put on ice Iceland had managed to secure special solutions as well as exemptions in several areas mainly stemming from the agreements made during the EEA-agreement just over 20 years ago.
According ot the report, reopening the accession talks, despite the freeze, should prove easy enough as long as Iceland does not withdraw its application for membership. If Iceland withdrew the application to join the EU the accession negotiations would have to start from scratch. A new application would mean that the EU would need the agreement of all member states and a conference for all members would need to be held in order to give the European Commission the official mandate to negotiate on the EU’s behalf. All chapters would need to be reopened and renegotiated.
It has become customary in EU accession agreements that specific solutions and exemptions are negotiated as the process reaches its end. Thus it is very difficult to imagine what Iceland’s accession agreement might look like once all the chapters, including the fisheries one, have been opened and discussed. Thus Icelanders have little chance to see if their future would be better off within “the ever closer Union” or as a partner to it through the existing EEA agreement, the report concludes.