Whether Iceland should reimburse the UK and the Netherlands money lost by British and Dutch savers in the Icesave crash is “a bilateral one and should not affect the country's EU accession prospects” Štefan Füle
, the Enlargement Commissioner, left, told the European Parliament this evening.
Addressing members of the Foreign Affairs Committee
in a specially-convened session in Strasbourg this evening, Mr Füle said that while the Commission had "taken note
" of the result of the referendum which saw Icelanders resoundingly reject a deal to reimburse the British and Dutch governments
, the Commission did not expect the referendum result to prevent EU leaders from giving their go-ahead at the end of March to start EU-Iceland accession negotiations.
"This is a matter for the people of Iceland to decide,
” he said. “As such, the results of the referendum are quite distinct from Iceland's accession process. Icesave is a bilateral issue between Iceland and two member states.
Mr Füle then reaffirmed that “there will be no fast-track procedure, no shortcut to EU membership. The criteria that need to be fulfilled are the same for all applicant countries based on the 'own merits' principle,
” before outlining some of the many advantages for the Union in admitting the Nordic country.
"Icelandic membership would contribute to strengthening the Union's role in advocating human rights and democratic values globally,
” he said.
“Thanks to its strategic geographic location Iceland would, as an EU member, strengthen the Union's strategic positioning in the North Atlantic area. Iceland also has considerable experience in the fields of renewable energy technologies, the protection of the environment and combating climate change,
" he stated.
Mr Füle’s statement was echoed by the Parliament's leading MEP on relations with Iceland, Cristian Dan Preda
(EPP, RO) who said “Icesave is a bilateral file which should not have repercussions on accession
In the November 2009 Albertini report, MEPs also stated clearly their view that ‘bilateral disputes should not constitute an obstacle to progress towards accession.’ However, Elmar Brok
(EPP, DE) noted that Iceland is ideally located for energy supplies and yet only 33% of Icelanders would support joining the EU. "Can we negotiate with a population who is likely to say no in the end? The Norwegians told us no twice in the past!
” he asked.