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EU/ICELAND : ENERGY: EU AND REYKJAVIK TO ENGAGE IN "ARCTIC DIALOGUE".

The question of protecting oil activities in the Artic region was at the heart of the discussions between Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule and the Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ossur Skarphedinsson, in Brussels on 8 April. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the advanced state of play in Iceland's accession negotiations. Skarphedinsson took advantage of his visit to Brussels to discuss Iceland's energy policy based largely on hydro power and geothermal power with Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

In order to strengthen their cooperation on Arctic policies, notably in preventing environmental disasters, such as oil spills, the EU and Iceland have launched high-level consultations called the "Arctic dialogue". The first meeting is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 15 April. Senior officials will, amongst other things, discuss modalities for cooperation with the focus on disaster preparedness and also discuss a joint maritime service centre for economic development and monitoring in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. The commissioner expressed his appreciation of the continuous firm support given by Iceland, as a member of the Arctic Council, to the EU's application to become an observer.

For his part, Commissioner Oettinger underlined the important role that Iceland could play in the European Union's renewable energy strategy. More than 80% of the island's primary energy supply comes from geothermal resources (66% of primary energy) and 15% from hydro power. The remaining 19% (essentially oil) is imported. While geothermal energy provides a good heating network for the island, the energy generated by hydro power far exceeds the island's needs. Unable to export its energy, Iceland has instead attracted companies with high energy consumption, mainly aluminium production industries. These companies consume 77% of all electricity produced.

Getting back to the accession process: 27 negotiating chapters have already been opened, 11 of them have been temporarily closed and six are still to be opened. Of these last, the chapter relating to questions on veterinary practices and plant health is due to be opened in the near future. The negotiations are progressing well, claimed a spokesperson from the Commission. Commissioner Fule has repeated that he "fully understands" Iceland's desire to limit as much as possible the importing of live animals because of the specific geography of the island. The E- Iceland discussions on all these points are expected to continue after the parliamentary elections in Iceland, on 27 April.

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Publication:Europe Environment
Geographic Code:0ARCT
Date:Apr 12, 2013
Words:393
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