Iceland and the European Union

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Iceland and the EU in Europe
  • European Union
  • Iceland
  • Iceland appliedto join the European Union on July 17, 2009 . Since this application was accepted on June 17, 2010 , Iceland was one of the official candidate countries for EU membership . At 27. July 2010, the accession negotiations.

    Until the financial crisis of 2008 , Icelanders waited to be hostile to joining the EU , in particular because of the feared restrictions on fishing rights . Since then, attitudes among the population and the government have changed dramatically several times. After the alliance of pro-European-minded Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir won the election in the Icelandic parliamentary elections in April 2009 and a coalition with the left-green movement was formed, an application to join the EU was submitted to the Presidency in Stockholm on July 17, 2009.

    With the parliamentary elections on April 27, 2013 , however, voters sealed the temporary end for Iceland's aspirations to join. In February 2014, the governing parties agreed on a corresponding bill to withdraw the application for membership. On March 12, 2015 , Iceland officially withdrew its membership application.


    Nordic Passport Union and EFTA

    On December 1, 1955, Iceland joined the Nordic Passport Union , consisting of Denmark (only later the Faroe Islands ; excluding Greenland ), Sweden , Finland and Norway . The aim was to fight unemployment through a labor market agreement. The abolition of border controls later came into force.

    The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was founded in 1960 on the initiative of the United Kingdom to offer an alternative to the newly created European Community (EC) in the form of a free trade area . Iceland joined it in 1970.

    European Economic Area

    After bilateral relations between the two organizations were concluded shortly after the establishment of EFTA and the EC , the first important successes were achieved when free trade agreements were signed between the individual EFTA states and the EC. The Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) was finally signed on May 2, 1992 , so that, among other things, the customs duties between all EC and all EFTA states except Switzerland were no longer applicable.

    Schengen Agreement

    After Denmark joined the EU in 1973 and Finland and Sweden joined the EU in 1995, a problem arose for the Nordic passport union in the mid-1990s. When the three countries joined the Schengen Agreement , border controls would have had to be reintroduced for trips to and from Norway and Iceland. For this reason, Norway and Iceland signed an agreement on May 18, 1999 to participate in the Schengen Agreement. The Faroe Islands and Greenland were not affected, but were also exempted from border controls through a cooperation agreement.


    After the withdrawal of the US armed forces in 2006, which had guaranteed the security of the island nation to date, fear of political isolation grew and voices were raised to move closer to Europe again. In February 2006, the then government announced a coalition of the Independence Party and the Progress Party that Iceland would join the EU before 2015.

    The government of the Independence Party and Alliance , newly elected in May 2007 , announced, however, that the question of EU membership would be put on hold for the time being, as this would be “not topical” in the next four-year legislative period. The general attitude of Icelanders was also rather skeptical of the EU. In particular, the fear that Iceland's important fishing rights could be restricted upon accession to the EU contributed to this. As a result of the crisis (see below), however, the mood turned against the government. Accession to the EU and in particular the prospect of the introduction of the euro appeared increasingly attractive.

    2008 financial crisis

    The economic consequences of the 2008 financial crisis are significant for Iceland and the Icelandic krona . Several large banks had to be nationalized, otherwise they would have collapsed. The Icelandic budget got into serious trouble. This was mainly blamed on the government; the largest demonstrations in Icelandic history took place. Accession to the EU became increasingly popular. In particular, the prospect of the introduction of the euro as a stable alternative to the severely weakened Icelandic krona had great support.

    The Icelandic government had already considered the move earlier, but at that time only the Alliance openly advocated joining the EU. Icelandic Fisheries Minister Einar Guðfinnsson reiterated that he was still against accession, but that the question of accession had to be viewed in a new light.

    After the beginning of the financial crisis, the position of some of the major parties on joining the EU changed. At its congress on January 17, 2009, the Progress Party decided to support EU accession, albeit with reservations, particularly with regard to fishing rights. At the end of March 2009, the Independence Party, which was involved in the previous government, followed suit so far that a referendum should first be held on the start of accession talks and, after these, a further referendum on the acceptance of the conditions offered by the EU. The Liberal Party of Iceland, however, stuck to its position against EU accession, as confirmed in a member survey from January 2009.

    Olli Rehn , the EU enlargement commissioner at the time , promised Iceland that accession negotiations would be carried out quickly. He spoke out clearly against a unilateral introduction of the euro by Iceland. The Swedish EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2009 also set itself the goal of enabling Nordic Iceland to shorten accession negotiations.

    Resignation of the government and new elections

    On January 26, 2009, the government resigned due to ongoing popular protests. Thereupon the former Minister of Social Affairs Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir took over the leadership of the country with her alliance and the left-green movement in a minority government under tolerance of the progressive party.

    In the new elections on April 25, there was a majority for the coalition under Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Their commitment to joining the EU suggested that an application for membership would be submitted within a very short time. On April 26, 2009 it announced that it wanted to apply for membership in order to be able to hold a referendum on membership by the end of 2010 if possible. On May 25, she presented a bill to parliament authorizing accession negotiations.

    Application for membership

    On July 16, 2009, the Icelandic parliament voted 33 to 28 in favor of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir's motion. The application for membership was submitted on July 17, 2009 to the EU Commission in Brussels and to the Swedish government, which at that time held the EU Council Presidency. Representatives of the EU considered accession to be possible within two to four years; how the people of Iceland would vote in a referendum remained open.

    On July 27, 2009, the EU Foreign Ministers gave the EU Commission the task of examining Iceland's accession. The report must be available one year later at the latest. Then the EU foreign ministers have to vote unanimously on Iceland's candidate status. Contrary to previous statements, the Swedish EU Council Presidency has ruled out an accelerated accession for Iceland.

    On September 8, 2009, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn handed over an accession questionnaire (approx. 2,500 questions), the answer of which is to be submitted to the European Council. The Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson stated that the questionnaire would be answered by mid-November so that the European Council could decide at its meeting in December 2009 whether Iceland would be granted candidate status. On October 22nd, the 8,870-page reply was given to Brussels.

    At the beginning of November, the Icelandic government appointed the negotiating committee for the accession negotiations. The EU was largely satisfied with the answers to the questionnaire and asked a few questions at the beginning of December 2009. The Icelandic government promised to answer them within a few days.

    On January 4, 2010, Iceland's President Ólafur Grímsson vetoed the “ Icesave ” law passed in December , which is intended to compensate foreign savers, particularly in Great Britain and the Netherlands. This put Iceland's international credit at risk; Iceland's early admission to the European Union was also seen in danger. The Spanish EU Council Presidency in 2010, on the other hand, viewed the Icesave law as an issue independent of the accession process. The Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen also stated that the Netherlands will not block the opening of accession negotiations.

    On February 24, 2010, the European Commission recommended the start of accession negotiations, which was approved on June 17, 2010 at an EU summit of the Council of Ministers. Iceland is one of the official candidate countries for EU membership. On June 17, 2010, the Council of the European Union gave the green light for the start of accession negotiations with Iceland and on July 7, 2010 the European Parliament too.

    In the course of these developments, a new Icelandic constitution was also discussed.


    Accession negotiations officially started on July 27, 2010. The screening began on November 15, 2010 and ended on June 27, 2011. On that day, formal negotiations began with the opening of four chapters. The aim of Iceland was to open the first half of the chapters under the Polish Presidency (second half of 2011) and the second half under the Danish Presidency in the first half of 2012. This schedule was not adhered to: at the end of 2011, only a third of the negotiating chapters were open and eight chapters were provisionally closed. In the first half of 2012, nine chapters were opened. Two chapters were provisionally closed in the first half of 2012.

    In 2012 there was a discussion in Iceland about whether Iceland should give up its kroon and introduce the Canadian dollar .

    In January 2013, a third (11) of the chapters were closed, a further 16 chapters were open and 6 chapters were not yet opened. The then Icelandic government planned to conclude the negotiations within a year and hold the accession referendum in the first half of 2014. Due to the parliamentary elections on April 27, 2013, Iceland decided on January 14, 2013 in the course of the accession negotiations not to open any new negotiating chapters, as a new government may no longer be in favor of EU accession. Negotiations on already opened chapters continued.

    The previous governing parties and the new Björt framtíð ("Bright Future") party supported the conclusion of the negotiations; the then opposition parties Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn ("Independence Party") and Framsóknarflokkurinn ("Progressive Party") called for an immediate halt to the negotiations.

    In February 2014, the governing parties agreed on a bill to withdraw the membership application. However, after protests and public calls for an accession referendum , the decision was temporarily withdrawn on May 13, 2014. A decision on holding a national referendum should be made after the summer break. In early September 2014, the government was considering canceling the proposed law to withdraw membership applications, while a survey showed growing support for EU membership among the population.

    Withdrawal of the membership application

    On March 12, 2015, the Icelandic government officially withdrew its application to join the European Union. The government announced that it would withdraw its membership application after the 2013 parliamentary elections in Iceland . Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson explained that Iceland's interests outside the European Union would be better served. The Icelandic government also has no intention of resuming accession talks. The fact that the government had bypassed the Icelandic parliament Althing in this decision led to protests in Reykjavík. According to various estimates, between 7,000 and over 8,000 people demonstrated in front of the Althing on March 15, 2015. More than 20% of the Icelandic population had signed a petition calling on the governing parties to keep their promise to hold a referendum on the continuation of the EU accession negotiations. The opposition parties in the Althing responded to the government decision with a letter to representatives of the EU, in which they stated that Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson did not have the competence to declare the talks with the EU over. Gunnar Bragi, for his part, compared this opposition letter to a “ coup ”.

    Opinion polls

    "EU + Iceland. No thanks! ”Poster in Keflavík in November 2013.

    An opinion poll conducted by the Fréttablaðið newspaper in October 2008 found that 70 percent of Icelanders wanted to hold a referendum on joining the EU, and 49 percent said they would be in favor of joining. According to other figures, over 70 percent of Icelanders were in favor of joining the EU. Even 72 percent advocated the introduction of the euro .

    Surveys in March 2009 showed that enthusiasm for the EU was cooling: supporters and opponents were on par.

    A poll published on May 6, 2009 by the polling institute Gallup showed that 61.2 percent of Icelanders were in favor of accession negotiations and 29.6 percent were against. When asked about accession itself, supporters and opponents were balanced.

    In September 2009 Icelanders' rejection of joining the EU rose to a record high of 61.5 percent. The attitudes of the British and Dutch governments in the Icesave dispute were seen as one of the possible reasons for this strong opposition . Only 38.5 percent of those questioned were in favor of joining. In all opinion polls published since 2009, a majority of Icelanders have spoken out against joining the EU.

    Even after the accession negotiations had been successfully concluded, Iceland could only have acceded to the EU after a positive result of the referendum, as this is a prerequisite for admission.

    Overview of the progress of the negotiations

    According to the EU, Iceland had already fully implemented ten of the 33 negotiating chapters. In eleven chapters there was a partial implementation through membership in the EEA. By contrast, twelve chapters should have been renegotiated.

    The screening of the negotiation chapters began on November 15, 2010 and ended on June 17, 2011.

    The first four negotiating chapters were opened on June 27, 2011. Two of them could be completed immediately. The Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson announced that his country would open half of the remaining negotiating chapters in the second half of 2011 under the Polish Presidency , including the rather difficult Chapters 11 “Agriculture and Rural Development” and 13 “Fisheries”. In the first half of 2012, Iceland wanted to work on the remaining areas under the Danish Presidency , but this schedule was too optimistic.

    On October 19, 2011, two more chapters were opened and completed on the same day. At the ministerial accession conference on December 12, 2011, five more chapters were opened and four of them closed on the same day. A total of eleven chapters have now been opened and eight of them closed.

    In order to speed up the accession process with Iceland, the next accession conference was scheduled for the end of March 2012. At this accession conference, the second at deputy level, four further chapters (8, 15, 28 and 31) were opened on March 30, 2012 and two of them were temporarily closed again (chapters 28 and 31). At the following accession conference at ministerial level on June 22, 2012, the resolutions of March 30, 2012 were confirmed and three further chapters (14, 19 and 32) were opened. At the following accession conference on October 24, 2012, chapters 9, 18 and 29 were opened, at the accession conference on December 18, 2012, chapters 1, 16, 17, 22, 27 and 30 were opened and Chapter 8 was temporarily closed.

    After the incumbent government decided not to open any new negotiating chapters before the parliamentary elections in April 2013 , the accession conference scheduled for March 2013 was canceled. The chapters already opened should be negotiated further. After the parliamentary elections, which led to a change of government, the coalition of the Independence Party and the Progress Party suspended accession talks.

    A poll published in January 2014 found that 67.5% of Icelanders were in favor of a referendum on whether to continue the accession negotiations. The governing parties agreed on February 22, 2014 to officially withdraw the membership application without holding a referendum. They also submitted a draft law to parliament to get approval. This decision led to thousands of demonstrators protesting on the streets in front of the parliament building in Reykjavík . On February 28, 2014, 82% of Icelanders were in favor of holding a referendum. Over 40,000 people (16.5% of the electorate) had signed a petition. This calls for the promised referendum to be held. At the beginning of March 2014, the EU ambassador to Iceland mentioned the possibility of suspending negotiations instead of deciding whether to resume or formally withdraw the membership application, "but not for an unlimited period of time". The government's bill was not adopted until Parliament's summer recess.

    On March 12, 2015, the government finally withdrew the membership application.

    chapter Screening opened completed
    1. Free movement of goods December 8, 2010 December 18, 2012 -
    2. Free movement of workers February 9, 2011 October 19, 2011 October 19, 2011
    3. Freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services December 9, 2010 - -
    4. Free movement of capital December 10, 2010 - -
    5. Public procurement law November 15, 2010 June 27, 2011 -
    6. Company law 17th November 2010 December 12, 2011 December 12, 2011
    7. Protection of Intellectual Property Rights December 20, 2010 October 19, 2011 October 19, 2011
    8. Competition Law December 6, 2010 March 30, 2012 December 18, 2012
    9. Financial Services December 15, 2010 October 24, 2012 -
    10. Information society and media November 18, 2010 June 27, 2011 -
    11. Agriculture and Rural Development January 27, 2011 - -
    12. Food safety , veterinary policy and phytosanitary March 31, 2011 - -
    13. Fisheries March 2, 2011 - -
    14. Transport policy June 9, 2011 June 22, 2012 -
    15. Energy June 17, 2011 March 30, 2012 -
    16. Tax Policy March 4, 2011 December 18, 2012 -
    17. Economic and monetary policy May 18, 2011 December 18, 2012 -
    18. Statistics June 7, 2011 October 24, 2012 -
    19. Social policy and employment March 16, 2011 June 22, 2012 -
    20. Enterprise and industrial policy May 26, 2011 December 12, 2011 December 12, 2011
    21. Trans-European transport network June 10, 2011 December 12, 2011 December 12, 2011
    22. Regional policy and coordination of structural policy instruments March 22, 2011 December 18, 2012 -
    23. Justice and fundamental rights February 11, 2011 December 12, 2011 December 12, 2011
    24. Justice, Freedom and Security May 24, 2011 - -
    25. Science and Research January 13, 2011 June 27, 2011 June 27, 2011
    26. Education and culture January 14, 2011 June 27, 2011 June 27, 2011
    27. Environment January 19, 2011 December 18, 2012 -
    28. Consumer and health protection May 16, 2011 March 30, 2012 March 30, 2012
    29. Customs Union April 6, 2011 October 24, 2012 -
    30. External relations May 19, 2011 December 18, 2012 -
    31. Foreign , security and defense policy May 20, 2011 March 30, 2012 March 30, 2012
    32. Financial control February 2, 2011 June 22, 2012 -
    33. Financial and budgetary provisions April 4, 2011 December 12, 2011 -
    34. Institutions not applicable
    35. Other questions not applicable
    all in all 33 27 11

    Negotiation progress:

  • Screening completed
  • Chapter opened
  • Chapter completed
  • literature

    • Carsten Schymik: Iceland on course for the EU. Accession as a lifeline . In: SWP-Aktuell . No. 24 . Berlin May 2009 ( [PDF]).
    • Burkard Steppacher: Iceland . In: Werner Weidenfeld, Wolfgang Wessels (Ed.): Yearbook of European Integration 2010 (=  Yearbook of European Integration ). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2011, ISBN 978-3-8329-6276-0 , p. 479 f .
    • Burkard Steppacher: Iceland . In: Werner Weidenfeld, Wolfgang Wessels (Ed.): Yearbook of European Integration 2011 (=  Yearbook of European Integration ). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8329-7211-0 , p. 511 f .

    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. Tagesschau : Icelanders vote left and pro EU ( Memento from April 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) April 26, 2009
    2. Iceland applies for EU membership , Focus , July 17, 2009.
    3. Change of power in Reykjavík: Icelanders decide against Europe , Spiegel Online, April 28, 2013
    4. a b Iceland renounces EU membership. In: Die Zeit online. February 22, 2014, accessed February 25, 2014 .
    5. Iceland withdraws membership application. In: online. March 12, 2015, accessed March 12, 2015 .
    6. Agreement on the Accession of the Kingdom of Denmark ( Memento of January 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Article 5
    7. "Iceland puts EU on hold" . Article from May 23, 2007 on the news page of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK (Norwegian)
    8. "Iceland's Independence Party seeks two votes on EU", (English) March 27, 2009
    9. Wiener Zeitung : EU bans Iceland to introduce the euro , January 8, 2009 (accessed November 7, 2013)
    10. Tagesschau : Government announces resignation - Iceland's coalition at the end ( Memento from February 11, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) January 26, 2009
    11. EurActiv: Iceland will apply to join the EU in July 27 April 2009
    12. EurActiv: Iceland prepares for EU accession negotiations ( Memento of November 27, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) May 7, 2009
    13. EurActiv: Iceland entrusts parliament with EU accession negotiations ( memento of November 25, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) May 26, 2009
    14. ^ Economic crisis: Iceland applies for EU membership . July 17, 2009. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
    15. ^ Die Presse : EU membership application: Iceland sets off for Europe from July 16, 2009
    16. ( Memento from September 9, 2012 in the web archive )
    18. Iceland takes a step towards the EU October 23, 2009
    20. ^ EU asks additional questions to applicant Iceland, December 3, 2009
    21. “Iceland's President forces referendum” , Deutsche Welle , January 5, 2010.
    24. Iceland not in the EU until 2013 , Der Standard February 24, 2010
    25. a b : Accession negotiations with Iceland can begin ( Memento from June 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
    26. Accession negotiations: Iceland crawls closer to the EU , Handelsblatt , June 17, 2010
    27. EurActiv , Jul 8, 2010: EP gives green light for Iceland to join the EU .
    28. Accession negotiations with Iceland started
    29. percent of Icelanders want “Loonie”, March 16, 2012, accessed: March 30, 2012
    30. Iceland postpones withdrawal of EU application. May 13, 2014, accessed September 6, 2014 .
    31. ^ Paul Fontaine: EU Accession Split Possibly Dead In The Water. September 3, 2014, accessed September 5, 2014 .
    32. ^ Paul Fontaine: Support For European Union Accession Increases. September 5, 2014, accessed September 5, 2014 .
    33. Center-right government ends negotiations Iceland withdraws application for EU membership., March 12, 2015, accessed on March 13, 2015 .
    34. ^ A b Paul Fontaine: Thousands Protest Breaking EU Talks ( English ) In: The Reykjavík Grapevine . March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
    35. ^ A b Benedikt Jóhannesson: Thousands Protest Government's EU Application Withdrawal ( English ) In: Iceland Review . March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
    36. Gunnar Bragi líkir bréfi stjórnarandstöðu til ESB við valdarán ( Icelandic ) In: Kjarninn . March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
    37. Agence France-Presse : “Iceland could 'quickly' join EU if requested: commissioner” ( Memento of October 25, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) October 20, 2008
    38. "Iceland wants to join the EU quickly" November 16, 2008
    39. ^ EU rapprochement divides Iceland ( Memento of May 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) March 17, 2009
    40. ^, "Iceland: Government wants to join the EU", May 7, 2009
    41. No majority for EU accession
    42. Icelanders remain opposed to EU membership ( English ) In: Iceland Monitor . October 9, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
    43. EU accession negotiations - But the Icelanders don't want to
    45. Archive link ( Memento from December 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
    46. EU: Iceland is making progress in accession negotiations. In: June 16, 2011, accessed January 11, 2018 .
    47. Iceland closes first chapter of EU accession ( memento of March 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
    49. EU wants to accelerate the accession process with Iceland quickly. In: March 14, 2012, accessed January 14, 2018 .
    50. ^ Accession Conference with Iceland: three new chapters opened, progress confirmed. (PDF) Council of the European Union , June 22, 2012, accessed on September 6, 2014 .
    51. Elena Ralli: Iceland one step closer to the EU. October 24, 2012, archived from the original on October 2, 2013 ; accessed on September 6, 2014 .
    52. An Important Milestone in Iceland's EU Accession Talks. December 18, 2012, archived from the original on October 3, 2013 ; Retrieved December 20, 2012 .
    53. Iceland: joining the EU is not in our interest. July 2, 2013, accessed March 11, 2014 .
    54. Paul Fontaine: Most Icelanders Want Vote On Finishing EU Talks . January 31, 2014. Archived from the original on February 4, 2014. Retrieved on February 22, 2014.
    55. ^ Iceland moves to withdraw EU application . February 22, 2014. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved on February 22, 2014.
    56. Iceland to withdraw EU membership bid amid protests . IceNews . February 26, 2014. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    57. ^ Zoë Robert: Three Thousand Protest outside Parliament . February 25, 2014. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    58. Zoë Robert: Icelanders Protest Government's Plan to Stop EU Talks . February 24, 2014. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    59. ^ A b Richard Milne: Thousands demand EU referendum in Iceland . February 27, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    60. ^ Zoë Robert: Eighty-Two Percent Want EU Referendum . February 28, 2014. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    61. ^ Zoë Robert: Forty Thousand Sign EU Referendum Petition . February 28, 2014. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
    62. Iceland can wait and see on EU membership . March 6, 2014. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved on March 9, 2014.
    63. ^ Iceland postpones withdrawal of EU application , EurActiv. May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.