The chapters opened cover public procurement, information society and media, science and research, and education and culture.
As Iceland has already taken on a large proportion of EU legislation as a current member of the European Economic Area (see 'Background'), negotiations on two chapters – science and research and education and culture – were closed in view of the country's advanced state of preparedness.
Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi, who chaired the intergovernmental conference on behalf of the Hungarian EU Presidency, said the speedy closure of chapters marked "something new" in the EU's enlargement history.
Martonyi generously wished to his Icelandic colleague a "speedy, smooth and successful negotiation" process, adding that he hoped his colleague would soon be able to chair on behalf of the Union the launch of accession negotiations with another applicant.
Martonyi explained that thirteen years ago, he had been in Skarphedinsson's shoes, representing his country at the launch of Hungary's accession talks. Hungary completed its negotiations in 2002 and joined the European Union in 2004.
The Hungarian minister said he was extremely satisfied that the June EU summit was able to recommend closing accession negotiations with Croatia, and that talks with Iceland had kicked off so successfully. Progress on EU enlargement was one of the top priorities of the Hungarian Presidency, which closes on 30 June, he recalled.
Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said that during the screening period of the last eight months, he had been able to learn a lot about Iceland and the country had learned a lot about the EU, which he said was "a very positive experience". In a large number of areas Iceland had already reached a high level of alignment with EU standards, he stressed.
Füle commended the Commission's interlocutors in Iceland as "very professional, very forthcoming, very open, very flexible".
Skarphedinsson said the EU should be applauded for keeping the enlargement process on track, despite the "daunting challenges" facing it.
The Icelandic minister said his country was prepared to open half of the negotiating chapters under the upcoming Polish Presidency, "among them the heavyweight chapters on agriculture and fisheries". During the Danish Presidency in the first half of 2012, all remaining chapters should be opened, he added.
Asked about difficult chapter of fisheries, Skarphedinsson said he held some preliminary discussions with the other "fisheries superpowers" of the EU, and had concluded that the problems could be solved. He referred to a 1994 fisheries agreement that the European Community had been able to strike with Norway against all odds as proof that agreement was possible.
"Solid gold inside the EU is its ability to meet special vital needs of its applicant nations," he said.
Asked by EurActiv if his country was planning to communicate to the Icelandic public the value of EU membership, Skarphedinsson avoided giving a direct answer, but said the government would organise a popular referendum after the conclusion of negotiations.
He made it plain that Icelanders would not want to commit to EU membership until they had seen the result of accession negotiations in the area of fisheries.