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Door still open to Iceland, says European Union

The European Union said on Friday the door was still open to Iceland and denied that Reykjavik's decision to drop its membership bid was a setback for the bloc.



Brussels: The European Union said on Friday the door was still open to Iceland and denied that Reykjavik's decision to drop its membership bid was a setback for the bloc.

Iceland announced yesterday that it was suspending its application to join the 28-nation EU, saying its interest were better served outside the bloc.

"The doors of the EU of course remain open to Iceland," European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.

Margaritis Schinas, the spokesman for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, rejected suggestions that Iceland's decision was a new blow for the union.

Britain could hold a referendum on its membership of the EU in 2017 while Greece's place in the euro and the bloc itself is in question because of its debt crisis.

"The power of the attraction of the EU is measured across the continent and across the world," Schinas said, adding that there were "many countries" that still wanted to join the bloc.

"When things went tough for Iceland they wanted to join, now they want to take a break, that's fine. It's a sovereign decision, our door is open, we continue to be in business," he added.

Iceland first applied for EU membership under a leftist government in 2009, when the country was badly shaken by an economic crisis that saw the Icelandic krona lose almost half its value, making eurozone membership an attractive prospect.

But the thorny issue of fishing quotas was seen as a key obstacle to joining the bloc, although it was never brought up in the accession talks, while the eurozone meanwhile has struggled with its own debt crisis.

When the centrist Progress Party and the right-wing Independence Party came to power in 2013 they suspended the talks with Brussels.

Iceland has said it wants to maintain "close ties and cooperation" with the EU, and indeed already benefits from such links.

The North Atlantic island is a member of Europe's visa-free Schengen area and the European Economic Area, which also includes Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

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