The new elected government of Iceland announced that they put the negotiations with the European Union on hold. There was a press conference yesterday in Brussels with Commissioner Füle responsible for EU enlargement and the new Foreign Minister of Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.
It goes without saying that any European country has the freedom to decide what it wants and what not besides being involved in international organisations and corresponding rules. Not to speak of the globalised world and the effects it brings to every country. And of course the EU can not force countries to enter the club. But the Union should also handle the opportunity of membership not so easy-going.
In this special incident the EU itself looks like the looser. The Commissioner frankly said that
It was not easy for me as a person.
And still he committed that
We remain fully committed to continuing and completing the process.
That sounds like no matter what you want and when you want it, we play the game with you. This is not the right way to behave. The European Union should make clear from the very beginning that the membership is something exceptional and special.
As the entry to the European Union is a process which last for years it is not easy to say at the very beginning that entry will be definitely the result in the end. But the Union could make clear that if a country postpones the negation process or even steps out of the entry talks it automatically looses the right to continue the talks or reenter for a certain period of time.
Being a member of the EU with all the benefits should be a privilege for a country and the membership a goal to achieve. Especially in time of crisis when people start to question the existence of the EU itself, the EU should behave more self-confident and courageous.
It is not very easy to convince people of the benefits of the EU and the successes already achieved. That is even more a reason to show that being member of the EU is very special. Especially when you compare it to other regions in the world.
So if countries decide to enter the club they have to know what happens if the step out of the negotiations no matter whether there is a change of government in the meantime or not. The EU should not allow to behave like Iceland right now. Or better said, Iceland could behave like this but then the negotiation table is closed for the next 5 or 10 years.
Post picture by siggimus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0