Monday, April 27, 2009
In elections today, Icelanders have elected a majority of deputies to the Icelandic Parliament, or Althingi, who favor an immediate application to join the EU. The center-left Social Democrats and the far Left Green Movement won a clear majority. Ms. Sigurdardottir, Prime Minister of the Social Democratic Party, has stated that she favors beginning the application process within weeks of the election. The Social Democrats believe EU membership will help buffer the Icelandic economy from future economic downturns. The Left Green Party is not convinced, but probably does not have enough power to block the application. Iceland already applies 75% of EU legislation through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), so its membership in the EU should not require significant legal changes. The most difficult negotiations are predicted to concern Iceland's fisheries. 2011 is expected to be the earliest possible date of admission.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha also announced that his country will officially apply for EU membership tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28. The former Communist state is located in the western Balkans, has a population of approximately 3 million people, and is one of the poorest in Europe. Albania signed a pre-accession deal, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), with the EU in June 2006. Ratification of its SAA was completed in January 2009, when Greece became the last EU state to approve the document. Organized crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, and corruption continue to be significant problems in Albania and further improvements in those areas will likey need to be made before Albania will be allowed to join the EU. The accession process will likely take several years.