A neighbour in the EU

Julie Herschend Christoffersen

The prospect of Icelandic membership into the EU is widely welcomed in Denmark. This will shift the balance in the EU towards the north and hence Denmark. Denmark has even offered assistance to prepare for some of the negotiations Iceland will be having with the EU. The social democrat Member of European Parliament (MEP) Dan Jørgensen is welcoming Iceland into the EU, as only common solutions can bring a way out of the crisis about.[1]
Public debates in the media are sympathetic to the present economic plight of Iceland, but there is a general consensus that Iceland will have to live up to its responsibility and pay for its mistakes. The Icelandic “No” to Icesave II[2] was seen as a way of “voting No to reality”.[3] It is widely expected that Iceland will join the EU together with Croatia in spring 2012,[4] when Denmark is holding the Presidency of the Council.
Turning away from Europe?
A number of observers in the media have taken notice of a change in the Turkish attitude towards the EU. The general feeling concerning Turkey in the Danish media is that Turkey is turning away from Europe as a result of EU’s indifferent attitude towards Turkey.[5] Turkey’s new active foreign policy in the Middle East is largely perceived as a turning away from Europe. However, the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen has publicly contested this view and claimed that there is nothing in the new Turkish foreign policy that contradicts its possibilities for pursuing a European future.[6]
The second theme that has been present in the Turkish debate concerns the Armenian genocide. The Swedish declaration on the Armenian genocide sparked some debate concerning the need for recognition of the genocide in Turkey. However, the Danish Foreign Minister has stated that no similar vote will be held in the Danish parliament.[7]
A new Visa regime
The Western Balkans do not enjoy a lot of attention in the Danish debate. Apart from what is expected to be Croatia’s accession within the coming years, not a lot of enthusiasm is linked to the prospects of EU-membership for the Western Balkan countries. The issue of visa liberalisation sparked some evaluations on the positive effects this will have on the development of the region, as well as the issue that Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are still stuck with visa demands.[8]
A forgotten policy
The European Neighbourhood Policy is something that is barely being mentioned in the Danish media and an assessment of these projects has not been very present in the debate. The Russian President Medvedev visited Denmark in May 2010 and therefore put more focus on the bilateral relationship with the big neighbour in the east rather than other relations between Denmark and Eastern Europe.

Denmark launched the “Arab Initiative” in 2003, which was created to strengthen dialogue concerning reform in the Middle East and Northern Africa.[9] The EU-backed Union for the Mediterranean is a central part of the multilateral “leg” in the “Arab Initiative”, but the Initiative attracts far more attention than the EU’s activities in this respect.

[1] Folkebladet: Velkommen Island, 27 February 2010.

[2] Icesave II was a bill that should approve a state guarantee on the debts of the Depositors’ and Investors’ Guarantee Fund. For information on Icesave in general see Wikipedia: Icesave dispute, 20 June 2010, available at: (last access: 6 July 2010).

[3] Politiken: Torskedumt, 6 January 2010.

[4] Information: Island i EU – en saga blot?, 28 February 2010.

[5] Jyllandsposten: Tyrkiets kurs, 28 December 2009; Politiken: Tyrkerne vender blikket mod øst, 25 Oktober 2009.

[6] Jyllands-Posten: Fejlagtig analyse, 13 January 2010.

[7] DR2 Deadline: Diplomatisk krise mellem Tyrkiet og Sverige, 12 March 2010.

[8] Politiken: Godt nyt for Vestbalkan, 1 December 2009.

[9] Danish ministry of Foreign Affairs: Danish-Arab Partnership Programme, 11 May 2009, available at: (last acces: 6 July 2010).