Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson has appointed Ambassador Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson as Iceland’s chief negotiator in the upcoming membership talks with the European Union, as announced yesterday.
Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson. Courtesy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Jóhannesson, who is a lawyer by education, is among Iceland’s most experienced international negotiators. He has served as Iceland’s Ambassador to the EU in Brussels since 2005, as stated in a press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Between 2001 and 2005, Jóhannesson was Iceland’s Permanent Representative in Geneva to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the United Nations and other international organizations.
He was appointed Chairman of the Working Group on Russia’s accession to the WTO in 2003, a position he still holds today.
Jóhannesson also served as chairman of the WTO Non-Agricultural Market Access negotiation group in the Doha Round from 2004 to 2006, and as chairman of the WTO’s dispute settlement panel on the steel safeguards dispute between the US, EU, China and several other members of the WTO in 2002 and 2003.
Jóhannesson has led free trade negotiations on behalf of Iceland and the EFTA states with a number of third-party countries.
He began his career with the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1986 and worked on, among other things, the Agreement on the European Economic Area which entered into force in 1994.
He was Director of the External Trade Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2001.
The European Commission is expected to submit its opinion on Iceland’s membership to the European Council in the coming weeks or months. Member states will decide whether membership talks should begin based on the Commission’s opinion.
Formal negotiations are expected to begin in the first half of 2010 and the chief negotiator has been mandated by the minister for foreign affairs to lead accession negotiations on behalf of Iceland.
The appointment of the chairpersons of individual negotiation teams and other representatives in Iceland’s negotiation committee will be announced later this week.
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