Iceland's Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Jón Bjarnason, yesterday gave a speech to an international conference on coastal fisheries in Biarritz in France. At the end of his speech Bjarnason, who voted against his government's application for membership if the European Union this summer, discussed from his point of view the situation of that application and how it came about:
"Last summer the Icelandic Parliament, Althingi, decided, to apply for EU membership. The process has already begun, although nobody knows how much time is needed for the negotiations. The political background is somewhat peculiar. The two parties in government have opposing opinions. While one is for membership, the other my party the Left-greens is rather strongly against it but has agreed to let a national referendum have the final say.
Recent opinion polls in Iceland show a huge majority against membership. Keeping in mind that all the agricultural sector, the farmers and the food industry are against membership, and the same goes for the whole of the fishing industry as my own party the left-greens, it should not surprise anyone that I am not in favor of membership myself.
Iceland is a small island situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with just over 300 thousand inhabitants. The foundation of our livelyhood lies in our natural resources; we must maintain sovereignty over our most valued assets, our economy, our culture and our future generations are depending on it. We can enjoy wide-ranging international cooperation without being tied up in the EU framework.
Given these circumstances, it is my firm belief that the future of our country is will be much better off outside European Union than inside."
Jón Bjarnason's speech
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