Iceland and the European integration

A speech by Björn Bjarnason, Minister of Justice and chairman of a special Committee on Europe, at a meeting held by Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels May 31, 2005:

It gives me a great pleasure to speak to you here today. At the outset I want to thank the Centre for European Policy Studies for arranging this meeting and to give me the opportunity to talk about Iceland’s participation in the European integration. I come to Brussels at this time with my fellow members of the Committee on Europe, as we have been entrusted with the task by our Government to make a study of Iceland's ties with the European Union. This morning we had the pleasure of meeting with EU enlargement Commissioner Mr. Olli Rehn. His task is, as all of you know, to negotiate with those who want to become members of the Union.

Last April, when opinion polls indicated clear French rejection of the EU Constitution The Financial Times speculated that Reykjavik might provide the European Union with its much wanted Plan B, as Eurocrats were desperate for a strategy should France reject the constitution. The FT's idea was that we would present this plan to Mr. Rhen. As we all know the French did reject the Constitution, so if we were here on a rescue mission, we should have brought a plan B to Mr. Rehn this morning. But as we are only on a fact finding tour and not seeking membership of the Union we are not going to interfere in its internal matters.

Iceland is one of the few European countries where there has never been a referendum on any European issue and when invited to address you here today, ladies and gentlemen, I considered it might be of value to you if I tried to answer two questions often put to us Icelanders here in Brussels: "Why is Iceland not a member of the European Union?" and "What prevents Iceland from applying for membership in the European Union?"

When The Financial Times speculated about our meeting with the Commissioner for enlargement it kindly said: "The affluent island wouldn't be a problem for the EU to absorb, particularly when compared with aspirants such as Albania and Bosnia. But would Reykjavik be ready to take the plunge? Maybe, if the island spells the end to the EU's constitutional headache, Brussels would make it an offer it couldn't refuse. Those Icelandic fish could be safe for a while yet."

Yes, it is of course about fish - but there is more to it as I intend to spell out – and trust me, we did not get any offer from Brussels this morning.

Read the whole speech...

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