The biannual national congress of the Independence Party was held this weekend. Davíð Oddsson, the now former chairman of the party, spoke very decisive against EU membership in his opening speech on Thursday. He has often spoken against EU membership through the years but seldom as decisive as now. Oddsson has now decided to leave Icelandic politics after being in the line of fire for three decades. Instead he will become president of the Icelandic Central Bank.
On Saturday the vice-chairman of the Independence Party, Geir Haarde, then expressed the same attitute towards EU membership as Oddsson in a speech at the national congress. Haarde was the only candidate as Oddsson's successor as chairman of the party. Among other things he said in his speech that no Icelandic interests demanded that Iceland joined the EU, but at the same time there were many great disadvantages to membership.
As presumed Haarde was elected as chairman of the party yesterday (October 16). He is the former Minister of Finance but succeded Oddsson as Foreign Minister on September 27. And also as presumed the policy of the Independence Party towards the EU, accepted by the national crogress without any protest or remarks, remains utterly opposed to EU membership. There was actually no chance at all that those results would have been otherwise. The eurosceptic policy of the Independence Party is widespread within the party and does not stand and fall with Oddsson although some people outside Iceland seem to think so. That is, however, definately in many cases more based on wishful thinking than anything else.
On the other hand it is understandable that those who are not familiar with the circumstances within the party have had tendency to characterise its policy towards the EU in Oddsson since he has as chairman of the party, Prime Minister of Iceland for a long time and then Foreign Minister for the last year, been the party's primary spokesman on foreign affairs. After all the Foreign Ministry was in the hands of the Independence Party's junior coalition partner, the Progressive Party, from 1995 until September last year when Oddsson became Foreign Minister.
For those who don't know the conservative/libertarian Independence Party is the biggest political party in Iceland and has been for more than 60 years. The party has been in government now for the last 14 years or since 1991. According to the latest poll by Gallup published in September 44% of Icelanders support the Independence Party.
Davíð Oddsson's speech
Geir Haarde's speech
The foreign policy accepted by the national congress