Monday

21st Jan 2019

Iceland election result puts EU membership in doubt

  • Iceland has slowly recovered from a crippling banking collapse (Photo: smcgee)

Victory by eurosceptic parties in Iceland's elections has put a question mark over its EU accession process.

With counting well under way on Sunday (28 April), the centre-right Independence party and the centrist Progressive party each took 19 seats in the 63-member Althingi and are expected to form a government.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The ruling Social Democrats and their Left/Green coalition partners were the main losers, with just 16 seats in total.

At the same time, a new pro-European party called Bright Future made a breakthrough, winning six places. The anti-copyright Pirate party also won its first three seats in Parliament.

With the Independence and Progressive parties opposed to Iceland joining the EU, the result places a huge question mark over the continuation of accession talks.

The outgoing Social Democrat government opened EU entry negotiations in 2009.

But some 16 of the 33 chapters of the EU's acquis communautaire are said to remain open for negotiations.

Discussions on fisheries policy, the largest sector in Iceland's economy, and on the Common Agricultural Policy have proved thorny.

Meanwhile, public support for EU membership has declined, with recent polls suggesting that just 25 percent of Icelanders support EU accession.

The election result also marks the return to government of the parties who presided over the near collapse of the Icelandic economy in 2008.

Iceland became an off-shore banking hub in the 1990s and 2000s, but in 2008 its main commercial banks collapsed with liabilities over 10 times the size of the country's economy.

The Social Democrats came to power in 2009 and borrowed $2 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid defaulting on its debts.

Since then, it has seen a sustained recovery with economic growth averaging 2.5 percent and with unemployment below 5 percent.

But Icelanders were frustrated after years austerity, imposed by the Social Democrat coalition under the IMF package.

Independence party leader Bjarni Benediktsson, tipped to be the new PM, commented on the election outcome: "We've seen what cutbacks have done for our healthcare system and social benefits ... now it's time to make new investments, create jobs and start growth."

Iceland leader snubs EU membership

Iceland’s bid to join the EU has come to an end, Iceland’s independence party leader Bjarni Benediktsson has said.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?
  2. Seven member states miss climate plan deadline
  3. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  4. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  5. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  6. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  7. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  8. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us