The unwanted EU application
For many people it is increasingly a puzzle why the Icelandic government is carrying on with its application to join the European Union. Even sources from within the EU institutions have questioned whether there is any point in continuing this journey.
The application was delivered in July 2009 in the wake of the economic collapse in Iceland in the autumn of 2008.
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For decades Icelanders have been opposed to joining the bloc but with the collapse, supporters of membership saw an opportunity to finally get an application through. They managed to do so after the general elections in the country in the spring of 2009 but only because the leadership of the Left Green Movement, the party furthest to the left in Icelandic politics, decided to ignore its policy of being against joining the EU and allow the application in order to form a government with the only political party in Iceland in favour of membership, the Social Democratic Alliance.
My party, the centrist Progressive Party, adopted a new policy on the EU during its last national congress in April this year. The policy firmly rejects EU membership, replacing a previous policy supporting accession negotiations with certain strict conditions - conditions the EU could never have accepted as the Progressive Party has never been in favour of EU membership.
Since the EU application was delivered, opposition to membership has increased significantly in Iceland. For more than two years now, every single opinion poll in Iceland has shown a majority of Icelanders are opposed to joining the bloc.
The most recent one, produced by Capacent Gallup, was published on 11 August. It showed 64.5 percent opposed to EU membership and 35.5 percent in favour. Furthermore, most Icelandic people want to withdraw the application, according to another poll by Capacent Gallup published on 30 June this year. These results come as no surprise.
The EU application has been fought over within the Left Green Movement ever since the 2009 elections. Two of its government ministers openly oppose it, including the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. There obviously are growing worries about the application within the ranks of the social democrats as well. But their problem is that joining the EU is the only policy they have to offer.
The social democrats’ desperation has become so serious that the chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance and Iceland’s current Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, gave a speech at the party’s national congress earlier this year urging supporters of EU membership in other Icelandic political parties to join the social democrats. She offered to change the name of the party, its policy or leadership if necessary. The Social Democratic Alliance has lost much of its support over the last couple of years, according to polls.
As a consequence of this, there have been growing calls in Iceland that the EU application should be withdrawn. But the government has rejected this move, just as it rejected calls in 2009 to put the application to a referendum because they knew it would be thrown out by the people if given the chance.
The Icelandic government’s EU application is, and has been from the start, a total waste of resources for both the EU itself and Iceland. The Icelandic people will never accept to give up sovereignty and independence over themselves, their country and their natural resources, including full authority over the fishing grounds around Iceland and over agriculture.
The EU application should never have been sent and it should never have been accepted.
The writer is a member of the Icelandic parliament for the liberal Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn)