Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following his meeting with Őssur Skarphéðinsson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland
Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle met with the Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs Ossur Skarphéðinsson in Brussels on Monday to discuss the advanced state of play in EU-Iceland relations. They reviewed the good progress achieved so far in the EU accession negotiations where 27 chapters have been already opened, of which 11 have been provisionally closed, and appreciated the constructive dialogue in the process. In addition, they welcomed that negotiations on food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary issues are advanced, and that the chapter is about to be opened. The Commissioner expressed full understanding for Iceland's sensitivities with regard to the import of live animals, bearing in mind Iceland's geographic, veterinary and phytosanitary specificities.
Commissioner Füle added that a lot of work had already been done in the accession process, with only 6 chapters yet to be opened, and reiterated that the European Commission remains fully committed to continuing the work with the government of Iceland after the elections. He also expressed confidence that the future cooperation would be to the benefit of both, people in the EU and in Iceland, and recalled the European Union´s position to take Iceland’s specificities and expectations into account within the agreed framework of the accession negotiations, while safeguarding the principles and the acquis of the Union. At a certain point the Icelandic people will have a say about how they want to see the future of their country, in line with the strong democratic tradition of Iceland. It is in the interest of both Iceland and the EU that the decision will be based on a comprehensive picture of what a future membership could bring.
Commissioner Füle and Minister Skarphéðinsson also discussed Arctic affairs. They agreed that the EU and Iceland are natural partners in securing the long-term sustainable development of the region, and that they particularly share mutual interests in preventing environmental disasters, such as oil spills. In order to strengthen their cooperation on Arctic policies, the EU and Iceland have launched high-level consultations called the “Arctic dialogue”, the first one being held in Brussels on 15 April. There, senior officials will, amongst other things, discuss modalities for cooperation with the focus on disaster preparedness and also discuss a joint maritime service centre for economic development and monitoring in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. The Commissioner expressed his appreciation of the continuous firm support given by Iceland, as member of the Arctic Council, to the EU’s application to become an observer.