BRUSSELS -- Iceland on Monday largely suspended talks on joining the European Union that began after its banking sector collapsed in 2008, plunging the nation into a period of economic turmoil.
The announcement was made by the governing coalition, the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, which is facing tough competition from parties that are skeptical about E.U. membership before elections in April.
"The coming months will be marked by preparations for parliamentary elections," the government said on its Web site. "In this light it is in Iceland's best interests that the issue be managed prudently."
Iceland's desire to join was seen as a vote of confidence in the bloc, which has been battered by a sovereign debt crisis and burdened by concerns about diminishing global relevance in recent years. Although enlargement continues, with Croatia due to become the 28th member this summer, the Union also faces widespread speculation that Britain may seek to alter or even sever its membership.
On Monday, the Icelandic government said it was "now clear" that the talks on accession would not lead to a treaty during the current parliamentary term. It said there would be no "further government or parliamentary decisions" on joining the bloc in the coming months.
It also suggested that there were still significant barriers to an overall agreement in economically sensitive areas like fishing and agriculture. "There have been delays in opening negotiations on important chapters," the government statement said.
The government has completed talks on 11 of the more than 30 "chapters" of E.U. laws that new members must work through to join the Union. But Iceland's economy has turned around since its crisis, growing strongly, and that is a factor that has diminished eagerness among citizens about the need to attach themselves to the broader trading bloc.
In Brussels, the authorities overseeing the negotiations with E.U. candidate countries sought to play down the significance of the announcement by the government in Reykjavik. Instead, they underlined that contacts among experts would continue.
In a statement, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said it had "taken note of the Icelandic government's intention not to adopt any further negotiation positions before the parliamentary elections." But the commission said it "continues to be convinced that the E.U. accession of Iceland would be of mutual benefit and remains committed to accompanying Iceland on its path towards E.U. membership."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.