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Iceland government formally rejects application for EU

13/03/2015 | By | Reply More

The Government of Iceland decided at its cabinet meeting last Tuesday that it did not intend to restart accession negotiations with EU – the European Union

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson met yesterday (12.03) with his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics, who currently holds the Presidency of the European Union (EU).

At the meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs delivered a letter to the Presidency of the Union and the Commission announcing that the Government of Iceland had decided at its cabinet meeting last Tuesday that it did not intend to restart accession negotiations with the EU. Hence, the Government considers that Iceland is no longer a candidate country and requests the EU to act in accordance with this from now on. Furthermore, it is stressed that this new policy supersedes the commitments made in the course of accession negotiations by the former government.

Sveins­son em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of con­tin­ued strong re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Ice­land and the EU, in­clud­ing on the ba­sis the EEA Agree­ment, in his dis­cus­sion with Mr. Rinke­vics. He fur­ther­more „ex­pressed his earnest de­sire to strengthen the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Ice­land and the EU, even fur­ther. The Lat­vian Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs said he re­spected this con­clu­sion and was in agree­ment on the im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ing pos­i­tive and close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the EU and Ice­land.“

The state­ment also stresses that the de­ci­sion came af­ter ex­ten­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the Ice­landic gov­ern­ment and the EU over the past weeks.

Iceland background for the EU application

Iceland applied for EU membership in July 2009, at a time when the global economic crisis was unraveling. By February 2010, the European Commission produced a favorable answer and accession negotiations began in July the same year.

EU

Progressive Party leader and Iceland´s Prime Minister, Mr. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson

The negotiations came to a stalemate in April 2013, when the election in Iceland was won by the centrist Progress Party, and the conservative Independence Party. When Progress Party’s and it´s leader, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson became prime minister, he froze negotiations with the EU in May 2013, largely because of the fish catch quotas insisted on by Brussels – something Iceland’s fishing industry would never agree to.

Today Iceland, with its population of about 325,000, has EU ‘candidate country’ status and is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Schengen area, and is an EU partner promoting cooperation in northern Europe – all this without voting rights in the EU. Two thirds of Iceland’s foreign trade is conducted with EU member states.

The first attempt to disengage with Brussels in 2014 ended in public protests and calls to hold a national referendum on the issue.

Icelandic Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has told erlier he would like to close the EU issue as soon as possible, stressing that the public protests which followed the first attempt hadn’t affected his negative position on EU membership. Now it is confirmed on behalf of the Icelandic Goverment.

Eirikur Bergmann, a professor of political science from the Centre for European Studies at Bifrost University told RT news. that Iceland is divided down the middle on the issue and there is no easy way out.

This government has said they won’t put it to a referendum. Probably they are afraid of the wrong results, for their policies, so I would predict that this stalemate that exists in Iceland will continue,” he said.

Watch video interview with Mr. Bermann, January 6. 2015 – Courtusty RT news
Runtime 4:23

 


Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) and renowned Euroskeptic, commented on Reykjavik’s move, saying: “This move by Icelandic authorities and the increasing Mediterranean opposition to the EU shows that the idea of the inevitability of EU integration has been smashed.”

UKIP’s Nigel Farage voted ‘Briton of the Year’

More and more people throughout Europe either no longer wish to join the EU or, as in Greece, to leave the euro currency all together,” Farage said.

In the UKIP leader’s opinion, EU member states, such as Greece and other Mediterranean countries that “are caught inside the straightjacket of an unsuitable euro currency and unsympathetic political union dominated by Germany” should follow the Icelandic example.

Greece should decouple from the euro, devalue its currency and grow its way back to prosperity with exports and tourism,” Farage said.

Responding opposition parties in Iceland

According to Morgunblaðið, re­ac­tions to this move have been com­ing in thick and fast.

Con­sti­tu­tional in­fringe­ment

Ka­trín Jakob­s­dót­tir, leader of the Left-Green Move­ment (‘Vin­strihreyfin­gin – Grænt framboð’), views the gov­ern­men­t’s ac­tions as an in­fringe­ment of con­sti­tu­tional tra­di­tion, whereby any amend­ment or re­ver­sal of a for­eign-af­fairs pol­icy passed by Alþingi (the Ice­landic Par­lia­ment) should also be passed by Alþingi. She de­plores the fact that this move runs counter to pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment pledges to put the mat­ter be­fore Alþingi.

No par­lia­men­tary man­date

The leader of the Bright Fu­ture party (‘Björt framtíð’), Guðmundur Ste­in­gríms­son, has stated in no un­cer­tain terms that the gov­ern­ment has no man­date to make this de­ci­sion on be­half of the Ice­landic peo­ple. He de­scribes the For­eign Min­is­ter’s let­ter as an “at­tack on Ice­land’s con­sti­tu­tion, democ­racy and sys­tem of rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment.” He promises strong op­po­si­tion in Alþingi when it re­con­venes and stresses the im­por­tance of the let­ting the EU know, should they be un­der the im­pres­sion the ac­ces­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions have been halted, that “this is ob­vi­ously not the case.

Weak­ness and fear

Árni Páll Árna­son, leader of the So­cial De­mo­c­ra­tic Al­liance (‘Sam­fly­king­in’), has de­scribed the move as a sign of the gov­ern­men­t’s “weak­ness in this af­fair and fear of the re­ac­tions of par­lia­ment and peo­ple.” He ac­cuses the gov­ern­ment of mis­lead­ing the EU and stresses that the gov­ern­men­t’s par­lia­men­tary man­date to ap­ply for EU mem­ber­ship has never been de­mo­c­ra­t­i­cally re­pealed. “I do not un­der­stand the thought process be­hind this move, but it is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the gov­ern­ment does not feel able to act openly,” he con­cludes.

An at­tack on democ­racy

The leader of the Pi­rate party (‘Píratar’), Bir­gitta Jóns­dót­tir, goes fur­ther and de­nounces the gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion as “one of the worst at­tacks on democ­racy in Ice­land since we gained our in­de­pen­dence.” She de­plores what she describes as the gov­ern­men­t’s “dodg­ing” the Alþingi and the will of the peo­ple.

There is word that a mass demon­stra­tion out­side Alþingi in con­dem­na­tion of to­day’s gov­er­ment an­nounce­ment is being planned for Sun­day.

Updated: 1pm today

The first reaction from the EU

Category: Iceland

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