Brussels has said Iceland’s entry into the EU is still on track despite strong signs many within the Nordic state remain fiercely opposed to joining the bloc.
Opening formal accession talks on Monday the European Commission dismissed accusations it was treating Iceland’s membership more favourably than other aspiring EU countries.
Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said: “No one should feel like that because each and every accession process is unique, countries are judged on their merits. Iceland for 17 years has been part of European Economic area.”
The biggest hurdle to Icelandic EU entry continues to be finding a deal on fisheries. Many in Iceland fear full membership will open the country’s waters to outside competition. Iceland’s Foreign Minister Össur Skarphedinsson said other states would have to respect fishing quotas.
“We don’t need any special exception. In this respect we need the rule of relative stability which really means that nations keep the respected part of their quotas,” he said.
Iceland applied for full EU membership following the collapse of its banking system in 2008.
Our correspondent Rafael Cereceda says: ‘‘The central stumbling block to Iceland’s EU entry appears to be a deal on fisheries and whether the Icelandic people, who have shown a rebellious streak in the past, back moves to join the bloc. Reykjavic says that support from Iceland’s voters will only be forthcoming if the agreed fisheries deal is good enough.’‘