Sweden says that Iceland has formally applied to join the European Union.

Swedish Foreign ministry spokesman Anders Jorle says Iceland's foreign minister Ossur Skarphedinsson handed over his country's application to Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt during a ceremony Thursday in Stockholm.

Sweden currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Iceland's parliament last week voted to join the 27-nation bloc. The EU has to approve the accession.

Iceland will also hold a referendum on the issue.

Icelanders have always fiercely defended their independence, but reassessed their situation after their economy and currency plunged amid the global financial crisis.