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Iceland submits EU application

ICELAND'S foreign minister yesterday handed over the country's application to join the European Union, a move Icelanders hope will bring economic stability.

The small North Atlantic island, with only 320,000 residents, is expected to meet many of the membership criteria, but faces difficult negotiations over its fisheries sector.

The independent-minded Icelanders are concerned that EU rules would give European fishing fleets access to Iceland's waters.

"To be frank with you, if we would get a rotten deal on fisheries, the Icelandic people would be quite angry," Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson said after presenting the EU application to his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt. Sweden now holds the EU presidency.

"This is not only an issue of economics. It is also an emotional issue. It is also an issue related to sovereignty," said Skarphedinsson.

He said he was confident the two sides would "find a solution that will be acceptable for both the existing framework of Europe and to our special needs as a nation."

In 2007, fishing employed 4 percent of Iceland's work force, just over 7,000 people. But seafood accounted for almost half of Iceland's exports.

The EU has to approve the accession and Iceland will also hold a referendum on the issue.


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