Chances of a pro-EU government in Iceland keep decreasing

It seems as if a similar situation is developing in Iceland as in Norway. That is, we either can have a center-right government (The Independence Party and the Progressive Party) or a center-left government (The Social Democratic Alliance, the Left Green Movement and the Liberal Party). That the voters will be faced with only those two possibilities of government. Neither form will put EU membership on the agenda since the social democrats are the only party in favour of membership negotiations with the EU.

After the Progressive Party's national congress last weekend the chances decreased very much that the Social Democratic Alliance will be interested in forming a government with the party since the new leadership is more center-right than center-left and thus likely to seek continued cooperation with the Independence Party after the general elections in May next year. The new leadership is also more eurosceptic than the previous one.

The leadership of the Social Democratic Alliance now says that the party will focus on trying to form a center-left government with the Left Green Movement and the Liberal Party after the elections if the parties will get a majority in the parliament. That this will be its first choice. In any case the Independence Party, having the Prime Minister now, will have the first chance to form a government and will most likely look first to continued cooperation with the Progressive Party.

So chances of a pro-EU government in Iceland just keep decreasing, especially after Halldór Ásgrímsson left politics. He tried for years to raise the issue, both within his own party and outside it, but without any results. In his parting speech at the party's national congress he again stressed that Iceland should look more to the EU and called for a debate on whether Iceland should join the EU or not. Still the party accepted a resolution stating that the EEA Agreement is suiting Iceland fine and that everything suggests it will continue to do so in the years to come.

The pro-EUs in the party made no attempt this time, like at the previous national congress, to have the party accept a pro-EU policy. After all they had to retreat completely at the previous one. It is also very likely that that attempt was planned by Ásgrímsson himself although he obviously didin't want his involvement to be official.


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.


EU Membership Not Too Important For Social Democrats

The chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin), Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, said in an interview with the Icelandic TV station NFS on Wednesday August 2 that the party was prepared to put its policy, that Iceland should enter membership negotiations with the European Union, aside in order to be able to participate in a coalition government after the next general election due in May next year (2007).

The Social Democratic Alliance is the only political party in Iceland which favours entering membership negotiations with the EU. All other parties reject the idea.