Iceland Expected to Complete EU Talks, Irish EU Minister Says

The European Union will continue to work with Iceland on its membership bid, even after the north Atlantic island’s government decided to freeze talks as it readies for parliamentary elections, Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton said.

“The negotiations on the chapters that are still open will continue,” Creighton said today in an interview in Reykjavik. It’s the task of the Irish EU Council Presidency “to work on the Icelandic accession process over the next months, even though the elections will take place in April.”

Iceland’s government announced on Jan. 14 that it would freeze its talks on joining the 27-nation bloc before the April 27 elections. Iceland started EU accession talks in July 2010 and had planned to vote on membership later this year, according to Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson.

The island has opened discussions in 27 of the bloc’s 35 policy areas and completed 11. Iceland’s government sought EU entry after the economy collapsed in 2008, with its three major lenders defaulting on $85 billion and the krona plunging as much as 80 percent against the euro offshore.

Iceland’s current coalition wants to advance toward EU membership, even as polls show growing hostility to entry and signal the opposition parties will win in this year’s election.

Withdrawing the membership application could hurt the relationship with the EU, said Creighton. “From my point of view the very simple expectation that we have is that Iceland will see through the negotiations and see what comes out of it and make a judgment then,” she said.

A majority of Icelanders agree. A Jan. 18 poll showed that 48.5 percent of voters want to proceed with the application, compared with 36.4 percent who want Iceland to withdraw from the process.

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