Positive stance towards Iceland – public opposition to Turkey

Jean-Marie Majerus
Luxembourg’s government has a positive attitude concerning the Icelandic application for EU membership. However, Iceland, as every other candidate state, has to pass the normal accession procedure. In fact, this will be much easier since Iceland, as a member of the Nordic Union, is already a member of the Schengen Information System and the European Economic Area. As Eurobarometer polls show, Luxembourg’s population has no problems admitting Icelanders, which might not only be explained by the presence of an Icelandic community in Luxembourg, but also because Icelandic Airways used Luxembourg’s Findel Airport as a hub for its continental European flights. The bad performance of some Icelandic banks in the most recent financial crisis did not really jeopardise this positive approach.
Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn, visited the Western Balkans in February 2010 and used this opportunity to explain the Luxembourgish approach towards EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. After his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Milan Rocen from Montenegro, Asselborn praised the efforts made by this Western Balkans’ nation to come closer to the EU. Asselborn especially praised the efforts made over the past years in the field of visa free entrance into Schengen-countries, and he recalled the stabilisation pact signed by Montenegro in 2007. Furthermore, the efforts made by Montenegro to respond to the EU questionnaire were also highly appreciated. Asselborn reaffirmed Luxembourg’s firm commitment to offer the Balkan states a place inside the EU. He reiterated his encouragement to Western Balkan nations to reinforce their reform process and to strengthen their regional cooperation.
In Skopje, capital of (the Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia (FYROM) the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Asselborn and Milososki underlined the positive character of the progress reports presented by the European Commission. Obviously, the debate on the official name of FYROM continues to be the main obstacle to the EU membership of Macedonia. Asselborn could not present a magician’s solution to this most difficult problem. However, he compared the Greek-Macedonian conflict with German-French relations after World War II: “Only a resolute future-oriented spirit may be able to offer a solution. This solution will neither be dictated in Paris nor in Berlin and certainly not in Luxembourg.”[1] Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki tried to compare the Macedonian situation with relations between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Belgian province of Luxembourg.[2] Asselborn was satisfied with the significant progress made by Macedonia in the fields of justice and police affairs. Furthermore, the government of Macedonia stabilised, in his eyes, the national institutions respecting fundamental rights and common law.[3]
Asselborn’s position reflects the general opinion of the Luxembourgish public as it is expressed in the press and parliament. [4]
As the Eurobarometer opinion surveys taken over the past years confirm, there is an outright majority in Luxembourg’s public opinion which opposes any admission of Turkey into the EU in the foreseeable future.[5] Luxembourg has nevertheless accepted, like its partners, to start an open-ended negotiation process leading to possible Turkish EU membership. So far, this situation has not changed. There are political and economic analysts in Luxembourg who do see advantages in a possible Turkish membership.[6] Generally speaking, the membership perspectives of Turkey or other countries which are not included in the next enlargement round are not a topic on the political agenda of the public opinion and political class in Luxembourg. In general, Luxembourg’s voters do not like any further enlargement of the EU before consolidation of the last one.[7]
In his last declaration on foreign and European policy, Minister Asselborn pointed out that he supports all efforts to create stability and prosperity beyond the EU’s outside borders in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. Luxembourg wants to offer the necessary diplomatic, financial, economic and political instruments within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Luxembourg gives equal importance to relations with the south, meaning the Union for the Mediterranean and the Barcelona Process, as it gives to the Eastern Partnership. In the Luxembourgish parliament, no political party contested this point from the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ declaration.[8]

[1] Europaforum.lu: Les questions européennes au centre du “tour des Balkans” de Jean Asselborn, 9-11 February 2010, available at: (last access: 22 June 2010).

[2] In fact both situations cannot be compared for historical, geographical and political reasons. See: RTL Radio Letzebuerg: Den Ausseminister op Viste am Balkan, 10 February 2010.

[3] Europaforum.lu: Les questions européennes au centre du “tour des Balkans” de Jean Asselborn, 9-11 February 2010, available at: (last access: 22 June 2010).

[4] La Voix: L’ARYM aux portes de l’UE, 11 February 2010; Tageblatt: Die schwierige Überwindung der Vergangenheit, 11 February 2010.

[5] Eurobaromètre 69: L’opinion publique dans l’Union européenne, printemps 2008, Luxembourg.

[6] Serge Kennerknecht: Gestärkt, geschwächt, Tageblatt, 31 March 2010.

[7] Eurobaromètre 69: L’opinion publique dans l’Union européenne, printemps 2008, Luxembourg.

[8] The policy defined in this declaration has not changed in the meantime. See: Jean Asselborn, Ministre des
Affaires étrangères: Déclaration de politique étrangère à la Chambre des députés,18 November 2009.