Less than three weeks after the Commission said accession talks should begin to allow Iceland to join the European Union, it has emerged the start of talks are set to be delayed following a ruling by the German Federal Constitutional Court
that the country's parliament must first be allowed to debate the issue before any negotiations commence.
Many had expected next week's EU summit in Brussels (25-26 March) to address whether to accept Iceland as an official candidate country, following a favourable opinion issued by the European commission but it now seems certain any decision will be put off by at least a month to give the German parliament time to examine the commission opinion.
This comes after the German court ruled that the Lisbon Treaty
was compatible with the country's law and so its parliament must participate fully in adopting EU laws on matters of major importance such as enlargement.
Reacting to the news, German S&D MEP Jo Leinen
, a former chairman of parliament's constitutional affairs committee, said "while I agreed in principle with the court ruling you have to say it may lead to some difficulties
"Basically, it is all about a power game between the parliament and government in Germany. [The German] parliament, in future, wants to be involved at the start, not the end, of important EU-related issues, such as enlargement.
"This is a test case which we are following very closely. I have no idea when a decision is likely as the procedure could be slow or quick,
” he said. "In this case, however, I do not think it will be more than procedural.
Iceland's possible EU membership is further complicated by the issue of whether it should reimburse the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to the sum of €3.9 billion
that was lost by British and Dutch savers in the Icesave crash
However, EU enlargement commissioner Štefan Füle
said that this is a bilateral matter and should not prevent EU leaders from giving their go-ahead for the start of EU-Iceland accession negotiations