Iceland's accession negotiations with the European Union were formally opened today at the first intergovernmental conference in Brussels. Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Össur Skarphédinsson, participated on Iceland's behalf in the conference, hosted by the Belgian Presidency of the EU.
Foreign Minister Skarphédinsson welcomed the opening of the negotiations with the EU: “This is quite a historic day for Iceland as well as the European Union when we embark on negotiations on the membership of Iceland.”
In his speech Foreign Minister Skarphédinsson presented Iceland's negotiation position and underlined Iceland's long democratic tradition and European identity. He emphasized areas where Iceland could make a significant contribution, such as in sustainable use of natural resources, both marine and energy, and its status as a country entirely in the Arctic region.
“The benefits I see for Iceland of joining the Union are quite clear: We seek the right to sit at the family table where decisions are made that affect our future. We seek the security of a strong, international currency. We seek foreign investments. We seek an environment of stable, lasting growth that is inducive to the development of hi-tec industries that already contribute 25 pct of our export earnings. Not least, we seek the long-term security a small nation, that neither has nor intends to have a military, would find by belonging to a strong European family.”
Iceland's negotiating committee continues its preparations in close consultation with Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament), stakeholders and social partners. The screening process, preceding actual chapter-by-chaper negotiations, is expected to start in November. This process involves the detailed comparison of Iceland 's and EU's legislation. Once the screening has been completed, individual chapters can be opened for negotiations between the EU Member States and Iceland.