EEA Membership Advantageous to Iceland, Experts Say Skip to content
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EEA Membership Advantageous to Iceland, Experts Say

A task force appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs has turned in their report on Iceland’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). Its conclusion is overwhelmingly positive, stating that the EEA Agreement is advantageous and rewarding to Icelandic citizens, as well as businesses and institutions. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the EEA’s establishment.

EEA prevents isolation

Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson appointed the task force in August last year following the request of 13 MPs to investigate the pros and cons of Iceland’s membership in the EEA. The report’s authors met with nearly 150 individuals in Iceland, Belgium, Liechtenstein, and Norway in the making of the document, which took one year.

Björn Bjarnason, who served terms as both Minister of Education and Minister of Justice, was the task force’s chairman. He says expert opinion was overwhelmingly supportive of the agreement. “We spoke with 147 people in the making of this report and only two expressed opposition to the agreement, a representative of [Icelandic association] Frjálst land and a representative of No to EU in Norway,” Björn stated. The report goes even further to state that were Iceland not a member of the agreement, there would be a significant risk of isolation, stagnation, and regression for the country.

Benefits to education and health

It’s not only Icelandic businesses and institutions that benefit from the country’s membership in the EEA, RÚV reports. Freedom of movement, one of the cornerstones of the agreement, has enabled around 40,000 Icelanders to study abroad through the European Union’s educational scheme. Furthermore, the European health insurance card ensures Icelanders’ right to healthcare services in other EEA member countries and reimbursement for costs accrued. In the past three years, 150,000 such cards have been issued in Iceland.

Cell phone users can also thank EEA regulations for lower costs when using their phones abroad. The agreement ensures tariffs are uniform across all member countries, which has likely saved Icelanders a fair amount of cash.

Stricter legislation

The report found that 16% of all legislation adopted in Iceland over the past 27 years is a direct result of Iceland’s membership in the EEA. Had Iceland prepared such legislation independently, the reports authors state, it would have risked negative economic and social effects.

Iceland has crafted some 26 exceptions to EEA regulations, mostly related to the making of statistical reports, technical rules, and energy. Those interviewed for the report criticised what they called Iceland’s “gold plating” of EEA regulations, meaning they were implemented with more strict conditions in the country. Such exceptions were said to make Icelandic businesses less competitive.

The report abstained from investigating what effect Brexit would have on the EEA Agreement, as it was considered impossible to predict the results of the UK’s departure.

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