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Brussels, 16 July 2009

Statement by the Commission on the decision of the Icelandic Parliament to apply for EU Membership

Today the Parliament of Iceland voted in favour of presenting an application for membership in the EU. Commenting the news Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "The decision of the Icelandic Parliament is a sign of the vitality of the European project and indicative of the hope that the Euroepan Union represents. Iceland is a European country with long and deep democratic roots. Iceland has very close relations with the EU after some 40 years of EFTA membership and 15 years in the European Economic Area (EEA). It is now up to the Icelandic government to follow-up this decision by officially applying to the Presidency of the EU."

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn added: "I am pleased that the EU's enlargement agenda may soon extend to Europe's north-western corner as well, with Iceland, a country with deep democratic traditions, in addition to our continued commitment to South East Europe."

Iceland is a potential candidate country for EU accession. It has joined the European Free Trade Association in 1970 and has a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the EEC since 1972. Iceland participates in the European Economic Area since its entering into force in 1994.

The application for membership is submitted to the Council, which decides whether to initiate the procedure laid down in the Treaty and ask the Commission to provide its opinion on the application. In the light of the Commission's recommendation, the Council unanimously decides whether to grant candidate country status to the applicant country.

The 'Opinion' of the Commission assesses the applicant's fulfilment of the criteria for accession, including its ability to assume the obligations of membership. This assessment takes place in the light of the 1993 Copenhagen criteria for membership. This also means a thorough analysis of the situation in the various EU related sectors. Iceland' satisfactory track-record in implementing its obligations under the EEA-Agreement is an essential element of this assessment.

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