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Friday, January 30, 2009

Commission looks into Icelandic insurance scheme

A report in today's Guardian suggests that Iceland will be put on a fast track for EU membership in order to save the country from financial ruin. The article notes that an Icelandic membership application would be viewed favourably by the Commission, with Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn saying he hopes Iceland can join with Croatia, probably by 2011. This would accelerate a process that usually takes several years.

So, is the Commission really Iceland's knight in shining armour? Or, is there more to it?

This story from Euractiv would suggest there is.

The issue, once again, is ratifiaction of the Lisbon Treaty. The deal struck between EU leaders last December for Ireland to hold a second referendum on Lisbon, envisioned Irish 'assurances' being tacked on to Croatia's Accession Treaty in order to give them legal force. This would avoid the EU's other 26 members having to re-ratify an amended Lisbon Treaty.

However, Slovenia has put a spanner in the works by threatening to veto Croatian accession due to a long-running border dispute.

This will understandably be unnerving Irish PM Brian Cowen who may be faced with a situation where he has to ask the Irish people to vote again on Lisbon but with no prospect of their hard won assurances ever having legal effect.

Then along came Iceland and the economic crisis.

A source from DG Enlargement reportedly told Euractiv that Iceland's membership bid "could play the role of a spare wheel" in the EU's attempts to push through the Lisbon Treaty. Fast track Icelandic membership will therefore act as insurance if Croatian accession continues to prove difficult and EU leaders will be able to reassure Ireland that their 'assurances' will be given legal effect one way or another.

As is often the case, there is more to EU politics than meets the eye.

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