Saturday

19th Oct 2019

EU encourages Icesave 'resolution' ahead of referendum

  • Reykjavik: Icelandic voters will be called to the urns on Saturday (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

The EU commission on Wednesday (6 April) said it would like to see a "swift resolution" of the Icesave dispute ahead of a key referendum on Saturday when Icelandic voters are being asked to approve a repayment scheme for Britain and the Netherlands, affected by the online bank's collapse.

"As regards Icesave (...) the Commission would welcome a swift resolution of this matter in the interest of all the parties involved," enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele told MEPs in Strasbourg when presenting the latest on Iceland's accession talks.

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 referendum has been called after the country's president refused to sign into law an agreement passed by the national parliament on repaying the €4 billion debt to the British and Dutch governments, who had to reimburse their citizens when Icesave was declared bankrupt in 2008.

A first referendum on the matter, held last year, was negative. Opinion polls show a slight majority in favour - 52 to 48 percent - but Icelandic officials are cautious in sounding too optimistic about the vote.

"It's a lot to demand of the public to say "yes" to such an obligation but it's something we have to do," Iceland's finance minister Steingrimur Sigfusson told The Scotsman on Wednesday.

MEPs meanwhile warned that if the EU is too vocal about the debt repayment, Icelandic voters may turn against the accession process - already not very popular on the island.

"Icesave is a very tricky issue and with Iceland's long standing democratic tradition, we see that voters are involved in every stage of the negotiation process," Italian Socialist MEP David-Maria Sassoli said.

"The role of the EU should be to stand back and wait for the referendum result, so as not to trigger any closure and rejection movements from the Icelandic population," he stressed.

However Romanian centre-right MEP Cristian Preda said that the new agreement, approved by the parliament, was a welcome step and he hoped the population would approve it, "thus marking the end of a dispute in EU talks."

A founding Nato member and part of the EU internal market since 1994, Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009 after it suffered badly in the economic crisis. Formal negotiations with the small Atlantic nation are likely to start in June, after completing the "screening process" of the 35 different policy areas, with fisheries and agriculture expected to be the most thorny ones, Fuele said.

An envelope of €28 million has been earmarked for Iceland for the next 3 years "to support strengthening of administrative capacity and prepare Iceland for the management of structural funds," he added.

Special attention is to be given to the public relations exercise, so as to avoid the "Norwegian experience" - with the Scandinavian nation twice rejecting EU accession, after the government had competed EU accession talks.

"I fully share your views on the need for a fact-based public debate on EU accession. It can indeed play a decisive role in increasing understanding of the realities of the policies and actions of the European Union and help to dispel myths," Fuele said, adding that the commission is planning to open an EU info-centre on the island.

Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described a decision to block Albania and North Macedonia from advancing into the next phase to eventually join the European Union as a historic mistake.

EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate

Climate change was part of the agenda of the EU leaders for Friday's summit. However, the council decided to finalise the EUʼs long-term strategy on climate change at its next meeting in December.

Agenda

Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

The future of Brexit continues to hang in the balance this week, with a crunch vote in Westminster on Saturday.

EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Remarks to Congress by the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, have shed light on the unusual nature of American diplomacy under president Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

EU parliament quietly hoards visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to national authorities in case of investigations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us