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EU presidency sees fast entry talks with Iceland

ICELAND'S membership talks with the European Union are likely to be fast, although the North Atlantic island will not be granted any privileges over other candidates, EU president Sweden said.

EU foreign ministers were set today to put Iceland on the road towards the EU by asking the bloc's executive to assess how well prepared the country is to begin membership negotiations.

"There is no fast-track for Iceland but rather a shorter track because they are already a part of the single market and the Schengen area," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters ahead of the ministers' meeting in Brussels.

Belonging to the single market means Iceland follows tough EU laws on competition, state aid and trade. In the Schengen area, people can travel without restrictions.

Iceland applied to join the EU after being hit hard by the economic crisis.

European Commission officials said it was unclear how long it would take for the executive to give its assessment on Iceland, but diplomats said the fastest it had been done was 14 months.

Bildt said that while working with Iceland on its accession, EU governments should not forget about candidate countries from the Balkans, such as Serbia or Albania.

Analysts and some politicians say speedy progress of Iceland, which applied to join the EU this month, could create frustration in the Balkans.

"We need to get to a better momentum in the Balkans. We must keep a momentum of the European integration," Bildt said.

"I don't think it (possible frustration in Balkans) has anything to do with Iceland. It has everything to do with blockages that we have. Those worry me a lot," he said.

Ministers are expected to reiterate the membership perspectives of Balkan countries and stress that they will attend to Albania's application once its election procedures have been completed.


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