A June summit of European Union leaders could decide to launch EU entry negotiations with Iceland, but existing members of the bloc still have to reach a consensus, the Spanish EU presidency said on Monday.
The European Union's executive recommended in February that talks should be launched with Iceland, but set no entry date and the country has been in dispute with EU members Britain and the Netherlands over debts lost in Iceland's banking collapse.
EU officials said prospects for the launch of talks could now also be affected by Britain's recent election and polls in the Netherlands next month.
EU foreign ministers discussed the possibility of an agreement to launch the talks at a mid-June summit of EU leaders, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the EU presidency, told a news conference.
"We may talk about launching negotiations with Iceland as a candidate country," he said. "In principle I don't think there will be so many difficulties, but we have to wait and see how we create the consensus for including this issue in the agenda."
Maros Sefcovic, the EU Commissioner for institutional affairs, said he noted "solid support" for Iceland in Monday's meeting. However the support of all 27 existing EU states is needed for the move to be approved.
Iceland, an island of 320,000 people, was reluctant to join the EU for decades but applied for membership last year when the global financial crisis devastated its banking system.
It hopes for rapid entry talks and to join by 2012 because it is better prepared than many other EU hopefuls and already belongs to the EU's single market and its Schengen borderless zone.
However, its aspirations are also tied to the dispute with the Netherlands and Britain over $5 billion in debts lost in the banking collapse of late 2008, which the two EU members say Iceland owes them for repaying savers.
The European Commission has also underlined the need for Iceland to carry out structural reforms and have a credible fiscal strategy and made clear talks on fisheries, whaling, agriculture and the free movement of capital and financial services could be particularly hard.
ReutersLast Mod: 10 Mayıs 2010, 21:51