Iceland and European Integration: On the Edge

Iceland and European Integration: On the Edge

Iceland and European Integration: On the Edge

Iceland and European Integration: On the Edge

Synopsis

Why has Iceland not sought membership of the European Union? This unique volume uses the case study of Iceland - the only Nordic state to have never applied for EU membership - to explore the complex attitudes of small states to European intergration and provide a new theoretical approach for understanding such relationships. The contributors explain why the Icelandic political elite has been relunctant to participate in European integration. In this context, they analyse the influence that Iceland's special relationship with the US and the fisheries sector have had on their dealings with the EU. Also considered are 'new' variables, such as national administrative characteristics and particular features of the domestic arena of the political elite, as well as the elite's perception of international relations and its political discourse concerning independence and sovereignty. Iceland and European Integration will appeal to all those interested in European integration and the international relations of small states

Excerpt

To outside observers, Icelandic relations with the European Union (EU) are something of a conundrum. How can a small state (or perhaps a 'micro-state') like Iceland, that is so reliant upon international trade, buck the trend followed by many others and continue to resist the temptations and attractions of full EU membership? Indeed, Iceland is regarded as somewhat of an icon among EU-sceptics. At the same time as avoiding full membership status, Iceland has tried to find methods of achieving a closer relationship with the Union-most notably through participation in the European Economic Area (EEA).

At the very least, there is much to be gained from a deeper exploration of Icelandic perspectives on European integration precisely because they explain a specific form of 'reluctance' towards the Union. Nevertheless, there have been few comprehensive studies of Icelandic relations with the European Union available in English. This book, edited by Baldur Thorhallsson, seeks to address this notable deficit.

In my view, this book represents a valuable addition to the literature on 'Europe and the Nation-State'. At one level, it examines the Icelandic-EU relationship from numerous directions-providing an historical overview and a survey of the key policy issues affecting the relationship, such as fisheries. The authors also address the nuances of Icelandic domestic debates in terms of nationalism and Euro-scepticism and discuss the challenges for the ruling elite in overcoming these various pressures.

What makes this book also distinct is the discussion of theoretical approaches. In particular, the application of Katzenstein's arguments is of interest. The country's partial engagement in economic aspects of European integration can be accounted for by the existence of greater external economic pressures when compared to those arising from the social or security aspects. Such approaches explaining Iceland also need to 'dig deep' and take account of Icelandic domestic structures to explain its reactions to the EU. Above all, the accommodation of other aspects-the size and characteristics of the national administration and the role and attitudes of particular leaders-may add insights into Icelandic policy towards European integration.

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