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EU Says Following Debate in Iceland as Entry Opposition Grows

The European Union is following the debate in Iceland as opposition to joining the bloc is growing and will press ahead with negotiations as long as the country is willing to proceed, said Peter Stano, a spokesman for Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.

“It’s up to Icelanders to decide whether they want to continue,” Stano said in a telephone interview. “If they decide to stop the negotiations, of course nobody will force them to continue.”

Of the 63 lawmakers in the Reykjavik-based Althingi, 39 oppose continuing talks and may push the body to address the option of dropping membership preparations before elections next year, newspaper Morgunbladid reported yesterday, citing its own tally based on interviews with lawmakers.

Iceland started EU-entry talks in July 2010 and may vote on accession late next year, according to Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson. Of a total of 35 negotiating chapters for membership, Iceland has opened 18 and completed 10, the EU said in June. The primary challenges relate to agriculture, the environment and fisheries, according to Fule.

“The European Union didn’t apply for Iceland to become a member,” said Stano. When Iceland “decided that they wanted to join we started the process and the member countries agreed with beginning Iceland’s accession process. If Iceland decides to stop, nobody will prevent it from doing that.”

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