Fast track offer if Iceland applies to join EU

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A commissioner in Brussels has suggested that Iceland could be fast tracked to join the European Union (EU) by 2011.

File:European flag in the wind.jpg

The EU flag
Image: S. Solberg J.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The European Commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, said that if the country, stricken by the world financial meltdown, applied for membership to the 52-year-old international economic and social organization this year, it would be welcomed with open arms. The EU is expecting an application if the Social Democratic Alliance wins May's general election in the country.

The next entrant to the union is to be Croatia. It has been rapidly making changes to its government and economy in order to join in 2011. The EU will then have 28 members. Iceland could join at the same time, making 29.

Iceland could join quickly because it is already a member of the European Economic Area and therefore already complies with many EU directives. The main contention would be Iceland's rich fishing waters, which are contested by several nearby fishing countries. Iceland and the United Kingdom fought short naval wars in the 1950s and 1970s over the issue of fishing rights in the area. There is also an issue with Ireland's failure to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, which was designed to streamline the union as more countries join. Without the unanimous ratification, further expansion is difficult.

The EU has its roots in the six member European Coal and Steel Community, founded by France and then-West Germany in 1951. In 1957, the members of the Community formed the European Economic Community (EEC), a common market and customs union. The coal and steel organization was merged into the EEC in 1967. In 1993, the EEC became the European Union. The EU adopted a central banking system and single currency, the Euro, between 1999 and 2002.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey are all on the waiting list for entry to the EU.