EU membership question not on the agenda for years to come

A new chairman was elected at the Progressive Party's national congress this weekend. The new chairman, Jón Sigurðsson former Central Bank president and newly appointed Minister of Industry and Commerce, takes over from Halldór Ásgrímsson who decided this summer to retire from politics after more than three decades in the front line.

Sigurðsson said after the results were in that the question, whether Iceland should join the European Union or not, would not be on the agenda for years to come which marks a certain turn from the policies of the former chairman who has repeatedly called for a national debate on the issue.

Guðni Ágústsson, Minister of Agriculture and who rejects EU membership, was re-elected as vice chairman. Siv Friðleifsdóttir, Minister of Health who vied with Sigurðsson for the chairmanship, said there was no hurry discussing whether Iceland should join the EU or not. Jónína Bjartmarz, Minister of Social Affairs, said the future evolution of the EU was unclear and had to be monitored.

Sigurðsson furthermore announced at the congress his intention to put a special emphasis on promoting solidarity among party members, but no issue has created more rift in the party as the EU question. Huge opposition to EU memberhip exists within the party explaining the new chairman's decision to put the whole question on ice.

The congress' resolution on the EU states that the EEA Agreement secures Iceland's interests well and that everything suggests it will continue to do so in the forseeable future.