EU FMs meet on Iceland's membership bid
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt talks to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana (R) at the start of a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels July 27, 2009. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Iceland will be put on a "shorter track" toward joining the European Union (EU) as foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc met on Monday.
"There is no fast-track for Iceland but rather a shorter track because they are already a part of the single market and the Schengen area," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency, told reporters ahead of the meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
The ministers are expected to ask the European Commission to carry out technical assessment of Iceland's readiness for membership only four days after Iceland formally handed in its application for EU membership.
Following the assessment, EU governments can take a political decision on whether to launch entry negotiations with Reykjavik.
It marked the first move taken by the EU to consider Iceland's membership bid, but under EU rules, there is no time limit for the commission to produce its assessment and entry negotiations usually take years.
Analysts said Iceland is well placed for a quick accession to the EU since the island country has a long history of similar democracy and follows many of the EU's rules as a member of the EU's borderless Schengen area and the European Economic Area.
But some EU member states fear that a quick accession for Iceland will make Balkan candidate countries feel frustrated, which analysts warned would not help the region maintain stability.
Croatia and Macedonia are the only official candidates for EU membership in the Balkans, but Croatia's accession talks are hindered by a maritime border dispute with Slovenia, which joined the EU in 2004, while Macedonia has not even started its entry talks.
Ahead of Iceland, Albania handed in its membership application three months ago but the country is still waiting for the EU to take the first move of starting technical assessment.
"We need to get to a better momentum in the Balkans. We must keep a momentum of the European integration," Bildt said.
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