Screening meeting with the European Union on Chapter 22 – Regional Policy and Coordination of structural instruments – was concluded in Brussels 22 February. At the meeting, which was the latter one of two, experts from Iceland and the EU compared the Icelandic legislation with the EU legislation falling under the Chapter. The Icelandic team was headed by Ms. Ragnheidur Elfa Thorsteinsdottir, chairperson of the Negotiation Team on Regional Policy.
The EEA-Agreement does not cover Regional Policy and therefore the whole chapter is subject to negotiations. EU policies in the area of Regional Policy and Coordination of structural instruments aim to strengthen economic, social and territorial development of regions within the Union by reducing disparities between them. Operational Programmes under the Regional Policy are supported by three European funds; the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
At the bilateral screening meeting the Icelandic experts described i.e. existing legislation, programming, institutional framework, financial management and control and administrative capacity in the context of the EU Regional Policy. Special attention was brought to the characteristics of Iceland, such as very small population and very low population density, remoteness, demography, recent economic changes, natural and climate conditions, limited economic diversity, dependence on imported and expensive goods because of high transportation cost and small local markets. Finland and Sweden have for instance enjoyed special support for sparsely populated regions, based on a provision in their accession agreement. Iceland also brought special attention to the necessary institutional framework and administrative capacity for the management of the structural funds should be proportional to the size of programmes.