Icelandic Foreign Minister Geir H. Haarde said last Monday that Iceland would not join the European Union in the foreseeable future. Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrimsson had commented earlier this month that he thought Iceland would join the bloc by 2015, but Mr Haarde disagrees. "I don't share that point of view," he told journalists after a meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Laila Freivalds. "Our policy is not to join in the foreseeable future. We are not even exploring membership," he said.
Haarde, who heads his country's Independence Party, said it was "normal" that he should have policy differences with Asgrimsson, who is head of the Progressive Party. Haarde, who served as finance minister before taking over the foreign affairs portfolio in September 2005, has argued that Iceland's economic profile did not make it desirable to join the EU, although the country is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA).
He argues that EEA membership already gives Iceland 90 percent of the benefits of joining the 25-nation European Union. Some three-quarters of Iceland's gross domestic product is based on fishing, but even the island's pro-EU politicians do not want to relinquish control over that sector to Brussels.
Neither would Iceland benefit from the EU's common agriculture policy, which provides lucrative farming subsidies, Haarde has argued. Ásgrimsson has said he is in favour of Icelandic EU membership if a solution could be found to allow the country to manage its fisheries itself.
Ásgrimsson's Progress Party is the country's third-largest party with 12 seats in parliament, while Haarde's Independence Party is the biggest party with 22, ahead of the Social Democratic Alliance with 20.