EU leaders decide to launch accession talks with Iceland

08:11, June 18, 2010      

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European Union (EU) leaders gave their formal approval on Thursday to launch accession talks with Iceland, diplomats said.

The decision was made at a summit of EU leaders, which was focused on reforms of the 27-nation bloc in a bid to prevent recurrence of the debt crisis.

In a prepared statement, EU leaders said even though Iceland has some structural weaknesses, including in the financial system, it does fulfill all preconditions set for the negotiations and accession talks should be opened.

Iceland submitted its application for EU membership in July 2009 in order to stabilize its economy, which has been deeply affected by global financial crisis.

Iceland, which is a member of the Schengen zone as well as the European Economic Area, has already implemented 75 percent of the European laws necessary for its accession. Comparing with other candidate countries, this should accelerate the accession process.

However, the prospect for Icelands' EU membership was mired by a dispute with Britain and the Netherlands over compensation to British and Dutch savers for their losses in the collapse of Iceland's Icesave bank in 2008.

In March, Icelandic voters rejected a deal to repay the British and Dutch governments 3.8 billion euros (4.7 billion U.S. dollars) after London and Amsterdam paid out last year to their citizens.

"We will not block the start of membership negotiations," Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said when he arrived at the EU summit. "But if and when it gets to (joining), Iceland must meet its obligation."

"Iceland must face its responsibility. We shall see to that," he said.

Before the summit, the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said that accession talks with Iceland could take roughly the same amount of time as those conducted by Austria and Finland, which would be between 12 and 18 months.

Source: Xinhua


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