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Speech: Iceland: respecting decision and remaining open

European Commission - SPEECH/14/28   15/01/2014

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Iceland: respecting decision and remaining open

2012 progress report on Iceland and post-election perspectives, European Parliament, Plenary Session

15 January 2013

Chairman, Honourable Members,

It is a pleasure for me to contribute to your debate on the 2012 progress report on Iceland and the post-election perspectives. Let me congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Preda, for his high quality report which is to the point and well balanced. It also delivers an important message to Iceland, which cannot be repeated often enough:

The European Union remains fully committed to continuing and completing the accession negotiation process, if Iceland wishes to do so.

The Commission acknowledges the Icelandic government’s decision to put the accession negotiations on hold. This message was communicated by me as well as by Presidents Barroso and van Rompuy in meetings with the Icelandic Foreign and Prime Ministers last summer.

In October, as part of its 2013 enlargement package, the Commission produced a short factual report on Iceland. This was not a standard “progress report” like those of previous years. It summarised levels of alignment with the acquis in Iceland, chapter-by-chapter, without providing any forward-looking recommendations.

In the report as well as in the overall strategy paper, the Commission concluded that Iceland had reached an advanced stage of the accession negotiations, with 27 chapters opened and 11 provisionally closed, when these were put on hold. We noted that Iceland remained and still remains an important partner for the European Union in particular in light of its membership in the European Economic Area and its participation in the Schengen area.

We have taken note of the fact that the Icelandic government has commissioned a study on the state of play of the accession negotiations and developments in the European Union which will be presented to the Icelandic parliament early this year for discussion.

Allow me to conclude with two remarks regarding the accession-related funds which Iceland has been receiving through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA):

First, following careful assessment and in line with sound financial management, we concluded that all ongoing IPA-projects should be discontinued. It is not possible to justify using EU taxpayers' funds whose purpose is to support pre-accession when the Icelandic government itself has put a halt to this process. Additionally, the Commission will not sign any new commitments under our current instrument “IPA I”.

Second, as regards the new Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II) which covers the years 2014-2020, in agreement with the Icelandic government, the Commission has suspended preparatory work for Iceland under this framework.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to our debate.

Closing remarks

Chairman, Honourable members, thank you for your comments.

The message which I would like to leave you with today on Iceland is one of openness - we should remain open to the Icelandic government, and the people of Iceland, should they decide to resume the accession negotiations. This is of course a decision for Iceland, and Iceland alone, to make. If there is at one point a decision to continue down the path towards the membership of the European Union, we should be ready to help them on that journey.

We will of course follow the ongoing debate in Iceland about European Union membership, including the upcoming presentation of the government’s assessment of the accession negotiations to the Icelandic parliament. It was the Icelandic government which decided to put the accession negotiations on hold and the ball is in their court as regards the next steps in this process. The Commission, for its part, is willing and able to complete the accession negotiations and remains confident that we could come to an outcome that is beneficial and positive for all sides, but with or without accession negotiations our cooperation will remain strong.

Thank you once again for your attention.

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