Iceland hands in application to join EU

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STOCKHOLM, July 17 (Reuters) - Iceland on Friday handed in an application to join the European Union to the Swedish EU presidency, an Icelandic foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

"The (Icelandic) ambassador to Sweden has met with the secretary of state and has handed in to him the application of accession to the EU," said Urdur Gunnarsdottir.

Iceland's parliament on Thursday narrowly backed the government's plan to begin talks to join the 27-nation bloc, months after a meltdown of the north Atlantic island's economy amid the global financial crisis. [ID:nLF682068]

If voters agree to seek membership in a referendum and talks go well, political analysts have said Iceland could be the next to join the EU -- jumping the queue ahead of southern European countries such as Croatia.

Icelanders are however torn between feeling it may be best for the country and fears they could lose their independence to faraway Brussels. [ID:nLD709289]

Recent opinion polls have indicated a small majority in Iceland in favour of joining the union.

Iceland's path to Brussels may also not be entirely smooth because of differences over fisheries and disputes with some EU states over accounts in failed Icelandic banks.

"We have handed in the application and now we will wait and see what the EU says," Gunnarsdottir said. (Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Robin Pomeroy)