Iceland submits EU membership bid

15:57, 23 July 2009
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Iceland has formally applied to join the European Union, a week after the parliament in Reykjavik voted in favour of accession to the 27-nation bloc, according to BBC.

The Icelandic Foreign Minister, Ossur Skarphedinsson, submitted the request to his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, during a ceremony in Stockholm.

Sweden currently holds the EU`s rotating six-month presidency.

The bid must now be approved by the EU, after which Iceland`s people will be asked to vote on it in a referendum.

"This is the day when I have the historic duty to hand in formally the Icelandic application to the European Union," Mr Skarphedinsson said at the ceremony in the Swedish foreign ministry on Thursday.

Mr Bildt said that having Iceland within the EU would enhance its "Nordic dimension".

Correspondents say Iceland, with a population of just 320,000, has traditionally been sceptical about joining the EU. Some fear EU quotas could hurt Iceland`s fishing industry.

But many people there have warmed to the idea of membership following the devastating economic meltdown, which saw the top Icelandic banks collapse in a matter of days last year.

Iceland already has close ties with Europe, being part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Schengen Area.

Arni Thor Sigurdsson, the chairman of the parliamentary committee handling EU issues, told the Reuters news agency last week he believed Iceland would not be ready to join any earlier than 2013, with a referendum due in late 2011 or early 2012.

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