* Fishing rows to dominate Iceland's EU talks
* No target EU entry date yet for Iceland
By Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS, June 27 Iceland could grow cool on
European Union membership if Brussels presses too hard for
concessions in negotiations on fisheries policies, Foreign
Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson said on Monday.
Preparations to join could drag on if talks on fishing are
not successful, though the North Atlantic island nation is
unlikely to withdraw its application, Skarphedinsson said after
meeting EU officials to launch Iceland's entry talks.
"At this point in time, the Icelandic people are not ready
to commit to the EU because they want to see the outcome of
negotiations ... related to fisheries," he told a news
In starting its EU talks on Monday, the nation of 320,000
began a process that could take years and faces possible
difficulties over its debts as well as fishing quotas and access
for foreign investors to Iceland's lucrative markets.
It opened talks on four of the more than 30 policy areas
covered in the accession process, which is designed to bring
national laws into line with EU rules.
It was also able to complete preparations in two areas,
science and education and culture, while discussions on public
procurement and rules and media laws will continue in coming
RELUCTANCE IN TALKS
Iceland comes to the talks well prepared, because it already
belongs to European zones that allow for free trade and
unrestricted travel, setting it apart from EU hopefuls in the
western Balkans, which need to make more fundamental and
far-reaching reforms to qualify.
For decades, Iceland rejected the possibility of joining the
EU and only applied in 2009, seeking the stability of membership
when the global financial crisis crushed its banking system.
But popular enthusiasm for the move was hit by a row with
Britain and the Netherlands over debts linked to the banking
Disputes over fishing issues have also escalated in recent
months, with Iceland angering Brussels by raising its mackerel
catch to cash in on an increase in stocks in its waters. The EU
has threatened to block Icelandic boats from using EU ports, in
Skarphedinsson side-stepped questions about a target date
for Iceland to join, saying the pace of talks would be
determined by fisheries policy.
"It all hinges on fisheries. If they (EU officials) listen
to our arguments carefully and accept our arguments ... it will
be swift," he told Reuters.
"My logic tells me we will come to a deal ... But based on
my experience, those negotiations will be difficult, drawn out
and might postpone the final outcome ... I assume fisheries will
be the last chapter to be finished."
Skarphedinsson was confident the mackerel row would be
resolved, but said Iceland was right to increase its catch,
because the rise in mackerel stocks endangered other species in
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Rex Merrifield and