Thursday

13th May 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050

The European Commission unveiled a plan to reduce pollution to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems by 2050 - including reducing the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55 percent.

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

Slovenia was supposed to nominate a delegated prosecutor for the new European Public Prosecutor Office, in charge of cracking down on corruption of EU funds. Ljubljana finalised procedures in December but has yet to send nominations, causing headaches.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us