Since the end of last year it has been repeatedly claimed in foreign media that Iceland has adopted at least two-thirds of all the legislation of the European Union through the country's membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Among those who have said this is Olli Rehn, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, for example to the AFP news agency at the beginning of February.
Until a few years ago, certain Icelanders in favour of joining the European Union on a regular basis claimed the same, that Iceland was adopting 70 and even up to 90 percent of EU laws through the EEA agreement. This claim was repeatedly put forward without being founded on any studies at all.
In the spring of 2005 research carried out by the EFTA [European Free Trade Association] secretariat in Brussels at the request of the Icelandic foreign ministry, however, revealed that only 6.5 percent of all EU legislation was subjected to the EEA agreement between 1994 (when it came into force) and 2004.
In March 2007 a report published by a special committee on Europe commissioned by the Icelandic prime minister, showed that some 2,500 pieces of EU legislation had been adopted in Iceland during the first decade of the EEA agreement. The study also found that about 22 percent of Icelandic laws passed by the parliament originated from the EU during the same period of time.
The totality of EU legislation is according to various sources around 25,000 to 30,000 legal acts. Total Icelandic laws and regulations, however, are around 5,000. Of those there are less than 1,000 laws, the rest is regulations. Even if the entire legislation of Iceland came from the EU it would only be around 20 percent of the total acquis communautaire.
So how is it possible to reach the conclusion that Iceland has already adopted "at least two-thirds of European legislation"?
Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson
(Previously published on Euobserver.com)