Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Opinion

EU membership? No thank you!

  • "An application for EU membership should never have been made" (Photo: EUobserver)

European politicians and journalists visiting Iceland in recent months have been quite astonished to experience first hand how little interest Icelandic MPs and Icelanders in general have in joining the European Union.

So astonished in fact that Icelandic lawmakers have repeatedly been asked if the EU application delivered by the Icelandic government in 2009 is really serious. Well, quite frankly it isn't. It is a door bell prank. No one really is there when the bell rings and the door is opened.

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

There is a reason why Iceland has never before applied to join the EU. There has always been a strong opposition to membership in the country. The necessary support among the Icelandic people has in fact never been there and the present government was and is well aware of that.

Still the EU was deliberately told differently. And now the EU is waking up to a bad dream and realising that Icelanders quite simply don't want to join the EU and never have. That the EU application is in fact a lame duck.

Since last summer repeated opinion polls have shown more people against joining the EU than ever before. According to the latest one 60 percent of Icelanders want the EU application scrapped with only 26 percent wanting to carry on with it. Another recent poll showed that 70 percent would reject joining the EU in a referendum and yet another one that 58 percent don't trust the Icelandic government to defend Iceland's interests in talks with the EU. Finally the business community opposes membership.

There are a number of reasons why Icelanders don't wish to join the EU. First of all it is the self-determination, the independence. Icelanders believe and for a very good reason that by joining the EU their independence would be no more. As a token of this, people in Iceland felt insulted when the European Council decided on 17 June to recommend accession talks with Iceland. On that date Icelanders celebrate that Iceland became an independent republic a little more than 60 years ago.

Another important issue is fishing rights. Icelanders will never be willing to accept that any authority over Icelandic waters will be transferred to the EU. That means that the Lisbon Treaty could never have any authority over Icelandic fishing grounds whatsoever.

Agriculture is also very important to Icelanders when it comes to EU relations as polls have shown. The same goes for the right to conclude agreements with other countries on issues like free trade and shared fish stocks.

The Icelandic foreign minister has been active in feeding leading people in the EU with wrong information about the true situation in Iceland. He gave a speech in Brussels on the day accession talks between Iceland and the EU were formally launched in which he claimed that his government was united behind the EU application. On the same day the farm and fisheries minister told Icelandic media that the accession process should be stopped.

There is only one political party in Iceland which supports EU membership and that is the foreign minister's own governing Social Democratic Alliance. The EU application was merely the fruit of bargaining between the social democrats and their junior coalition partner, the eurosceptic Left Green Movement, when forming a government in the spring of 2009. Since then, opposition to the EU deal with the social democrats has been increasing fast within the ranks of the Left Greens.

In addition, this summer Iceland's largest political party, the conservative Independence Party, which is the most likely to enter government if the current fragile one should break apart, accepted the idea that the EU application should be withdrawn completely and without delay. The policy was overwhelmingly accepted at the party's national congress at the end of June and the party's chairman has said publicly that making it come to pass will be a top priority should the party enter into government.

In short it should be quite obvious to anyone that Icelanders don't want to join the EU. An application for EU membership should never have been made.

Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson is director of Civis, an Icelandic free-market think tank.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us