Iceland’s parliament has voted to begin accession talks with the European Union.
It was an unthinkable move once, but the island’s recent financial meltdown changed all that. The bill passed by only a narrow margin of 33 votes to 28, after a hard won fight by the island’s prime minister. Icelanders, perhaps because of their location and their numbers – there are only 320,000 – are protective of their sovereignty and worry about losing fish stocks if they join the EU. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn said: “ Such issues as fisheries and agriculture are sensitive for Iceland, and for the EU. Having said that Iceland already applies more than two thirds of the EU legislation. Thus it meets many of the criteria of EU membership but yes the negotiations may be rather difficult.” According to opinion polls Icelanders, whose economy depends on fish, are keen on EU talks but are evenly split on actually joining, so the process may be a long journey. Bjarni Benediktsson, Independence Party leader said: “ What I think people should be concerned about is how weak the majority was in Parliament and in fact the two parties leading the country are not in agreement.” Iceland’s leaders are hoping EU membership will help bring economic stability and prosperity to a country that was was once one of the world’s wealthiest. Even so experts say investors will not be rushing in any time soon to shore up Iceland’s debt