No new polls in Iceland since March this year

No new public opinion polls have been produced in Iceland on the EU issue since March this year (the poll was actually produced in February but published in March). According to it there was kind of a 50/50 situation here in Iceland at that point with the yes-side leading with a narrow majority. That is how things have been for the last couple of years, kind of a 50/50 situation with each side either in majority or minority by few percents. During that time we have only had two or three polls a year which is one more sign of how EU membership is so not on the agenda in Iceland.

The next poll from Gallup is expected in late August but it is possible that we'll have one before that since the Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið has sometimes had a poll produced during the summer.

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The European Movement in Iceland tongue-tied?

The European Movement in Iceland hasn't said one word (when this is written) on its website about the current crises in the EU or the results in the French and Dutch referendums which took place about three weeks ago. Of course much wasn't expected from the pro-EU movement on this but this is much less than that.

Almost the only response we have had from the Europhiles is one article on the internet mainly focused on saying that in most cases those who question the EU integration are some extremists, either to the left or the right, and that opposition to the EU is primarily founded on xenophobia and isolationism. In other words the same old empty phrases the Europhiles use all over Europe when they don't have any other arguments - which seems to be quite often to say the least.

In addition to that we have had one short response from the chairman of the European Movement in Iceland, Andrés Pétursson, which is all that has come from that organisation. However, this response has not been mentioned on the movement's website by some reason. It came in an interview in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið on June 8. There he said that the rejection of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands was positive for the pro-EU movement in Iceland since the constitution would have ment more centralisation for the EU, less flexibility and less chance for Iceland to get favourable agreement with the Union in case of membership negotiations. He has never said this before.

The same goes for Össur Skarphéðinsson, the former chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance, the only Icelandic political party in favour of EU membership. He said a few days ago on his personal website that the constitution would have made it harder for the pro-EU movement to get Iceland into the EU. This he said was especially because of the constitution's articles stating that the Union is to have in fact full competence over the fisheries. He had never said this before either until the French rejected the constitution.

Now the million dollar question is whether those two will stand by their statement in case the EU constitution will in the end be adopted in one way or another? I actually have no reason to expect that.

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More free trade agreements underway between Iceland and other countries

A free trade agreement between EFTA and the Southern African Customs Union is scheduled to be signed at the end of November this year and to become active in the beginning of the year 2006. The Southern African Customs Union includes South Africa, Namibia, Leshota, Botswana and Swaziland. The European Union has only concluded a free trade agreement with South Africa so far which will become active next year. And negotiations with more countries are scheduled or ongoing including Thailand, the United States and Canada.

Furthermore a free trade agreement between Iceland and China is being negotiated, as mentioned earlier on this website, and negotiations about such an agreement are also underway with South Korea. Finally during the recent official visit by the president of India, Mr Abdul Kalam, to Iceland ideas about a free trade agreement between Iceland and India were aired gaining positive attitude from both sides.

Previously Iceland has signed free trade agreements with 14 countries around the world through EFTA including Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Mexico, Romania, Singapore and Turkey. All these agreements, and the ones currently being negotiated, would expire if Iceland would join the EU.

Press article:

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Iceland and the European integration

A speech by Björn Bjarnason, Minister of Justice and chairman of a special Committee on Europe, at a meeting held by Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels May 31, 2005:

It gives me a great pleasure to speak to you here today. At the outset I want to thank the Centre for European Policy Studies for arranging this meeting and to give me the opportunity to talk about Iceland’s participation in the European integration. I come to Brussels at this time with my fellow members of the Committee on Europe, as we have been entrusted with the task by our Government to make a study of Iceland's ties with the European Union. This morning we had the pleasure of meeting with EU enlargement Commissioner Mr. Olli Rehn. His task is, as all of you know, to negotiate with those who want to become members of the Union.

Last April, when opinion polls indicated clear French rejection of the EU Constitution The Financial Times speculated that Reykjavik might provide the European Union with its much wanted Plan B, as Eurocrats were desperate for a strategy should France reject the constitution. The FT's idea was that we would present this plan to Mr. Rhen. As we all know the French did reject the Constitution, so if we were here on a rescue mission, we should have brought a plan B to Mr. Rehn this morning. But as we are only on a fact finding tour and not seeking membership of the Union we are not going to interfere in its internal matters.

Iceland is one of the few European countries where there has never been a referendum on any European issue and when invited to address you here today, ladies and gentlemen, I considered it might be of value to you if I tried to answer two questions often put to us Icelanders here in Brussels: "Why is Iceland not a member of the European Union?" and "What prevents Iceland from applying for membership in the European Union?"

When The Financial Times speculated about our meeting with the Commissioner for enlargement it kindly said: "The affluent island wouldn't be a problem for the EU to absorb, particularly when compared with aspirants such as Albania and Bosnia. But would Reykjavik be ready to take the plunge? Maybe, if the island spells the end to the EU's constitutional headache, Brussels would make it an offer it couldn't refuse. Those Icelandic fish could be safe for a while yet."

Yes, it is of course about fish - but there is more to it as I intend to spell out – and trust me, we did not get any offer from Brussels this morning.

Read the whole speech...

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