Iceland begins talks to join EU

14th of July 2011
Iceland begins talks to join EU

Iceland has started detailed European Union accession talks, setting off a process that could take several years. The early phase of those talks should run smoothly, say diplomats, because the country comes to the negotiating table well prepared in many areas thanks to its membership of Europe's economic cooperation zone - unlike other EU hopefuls in the Western Balkans.

But the nation of 320,000 people faces difficult issues later in the process when it will likely have to address EU opposition to its whaling traditions and share control over its lucrative fishing industry.

For decades Iceland resisted EU membership, only applying to join in 2009 when the global financial crisis collapsed its banking system. Popular enthusiasm has faded, however, since then because of a dispute with the UK and the Netherlands over debts linked to banking problems.

In fact the Netherlands has threatened to block Iceland's EU bid unless the dispute over almost one billion euros in unpaid debts is resolved.


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