Friday

9th Dec 2022

Interview

'No thanks!' to EU and Nato, Iceland PM says

  • Katrin Jakobsdottir became Iceland's first Green prime minister on 30 November 2017 (Photo: Seppo Samuli/norden.org)

Eurozone failures mean Iceland should stay out of the EU, its prime minister told EUobserver.

She would also quit Nato if she had her say.

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

  • During the Second World War US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation (Photo: EUobserver)

"I don't think we should enter the EU right now. I don't think there's any reason to apply," Katrin Jakobsdottir said in an interview with this website, as Iceland's new government prepared to celebrate its first anniversary in power.

"Personally, I'm critical towards the economic policies of the EU - the creation of the eurozone without any real centralised policies on taxes or fiscal policies," she said.

"The European Central Bank has become really powerful without being very democratic. The economic policies of the EU have been really distant from people in the eurozone and they've created divisions that needn't be there," she added.

Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009, but abandoned the process in 2015.

It has remained a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), two free-trade clubs, instead.

The North Atlantic country, with a tiny population of just 340,000 people, is also a member of Nato, the world's largest military alliance.

The issue of EU membership remained divisive, Jakobsdottir said.

"It was controversial then [in 2009] and still is," she said after recent polls, which indicated that 60 percent of Icelanders wanted to stay out of Europe, while 40 percent wanted to go in.

Free trade with the EU had been unequivocally good for Iceland, the prime minister said, however.

"Iceland's position within the EEA has proved beneficial to us," Jakobsdottir said.

"When we look at our economy, our social structure and our policy-making, I think we've done pretty well without being members of the EU," she said.

"You can check all the indices of the world: We're not doing too badly on economic performance, social indicators, or gender equality for that matter, where we're ahead of all other Nordic countries," she added.

War games

The 42-year old Jakobsdottir, a former academic, became the second-ever woman to lead Iceland last year.

Her party, the Left-Green Movement, formed a coalition with the liberal Progressive and Independence parties to take power.

The coalition backs Nato membership, but the prime minister said she favoured "diplomatic and political" solutions to security challenges.

"My party's position is that we are against Iceland's membership of Nato. However, we're the only party in Iceland's parliament which holds that position," she said.

"We - as the Left-Green party - recognise that there is a strong majority in Iceland in support of Nato membership, but we don't favour the idea of a permanent military presence here in Iceland," she added.

US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation in World War II.

Iceland also became a founding member of Nato in 1949, but the US quit its permanent base there in 2006.

Jakobsdottir spoke amid mass-scale Nato war-games - called Trident Juncture - which began last week and which saw three Canadian and two British frigates come to Reykjavik.

An US amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima, and 7,000 American soldiers also came.

US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which hunt for Russian submarines, had already become frequent visitors at Iceland's Keflavik airport in recent years.

Trident Juncture's focus is to defend Norway from a "fictitious aggressor" - Nato's veiled term for Russia.

But the straits between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK have received increased attention after Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014 and began a military build-up in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

Diplomatic solutions

Jakobsdottir said she was "critical of any increased militarisation of the North Atlantic."

Her government would "stick to the security policy [Nato membership] that we've agreed upon", she said.

But "we [her party] favour more peaceful solutions and we don't think that increased militarisation is a solution," she added.

"We need to strengthen diplomatic and political relations. We will not give up that position even if there is trouble around us," Iceland's leader said.

In Iceland: Europe woos Arctic allies

The EU is requesting a status of observer at the Arctic Council, a regional forum in which Asian countries are already active.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  2. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  3. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  4. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  5. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  6. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  7. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war
  8. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us