Gallup poll: All quiet on the Icelandic front

According to a new poll in Iceland by Gallup there is still a "status quo" in the attitute of Icelanders towards the idea of joining the European Union. Some 45% are in favour of membership of the Union while 34% are against. 21% are uncertain. This is like it has been since 2003, a kind of a 50/50 situation with each side either in majority or minority by few percents. However, before 2003 those in favour of EU membership were usually in majority and even in some cases with 2/3 of the people.

On the other hand majority of Icelanders oppose the idea of adopting the euro or 51% with only 37% in favour. In 2002 this was reversed. Then 55% were in favour of the euro but only 33% against. But since 2003 there has been a steady majority against the single currency.

Support for starting membership negotiations with the EU also keeps dropping as before. Now it is 59%, last year it was 63%, in 2003 64% and in 2002 it was 91% according to polls by Gallup. But of course starting negotiations with the EU only to see what it has to offer is not available. This has been confirmed by number of senior politicians from the EU over the years. Also rejecting the euro in fact means rejecting EU membership and EU membership negotiations since joining the EU means adopting the single currency.

Also it ought to be mentioned that the issue has not been hot in Iceland since the beginning of the year 2003. We had general elections in the spring of that year and the leadership of the Social Democratic Alliance, the only Icelandic political party in favour of joining the EU, had claimed during the year 2002 that EU membership would be one of its main policies duning the elections campaign.

The issue was then debated in the second half of 2002 and in the beginning of 2003 number of polls indicated that Icelanders were far from endorsing the idea of joining the EU. As a result the leadership of the Social Democratic Alliance dropped the idea of putting EU membership on its agenda. So it must be considered very likely that if the matter was really being debated in Iceland, which is not the issue now, there would be a vast majority of Icelanders against EU membership.

The present coalition government in Iceland is against joining the EU and the next general elections will be in the spring of 2007. However, it is not likely that EU membership will be an issue in the elections campaign, at least not one of any importance, and far less likely that an EU positive government will take power in the wake of the elections.

The poll now, on the attitute of Icelanders towards EU membership, is obviously seen as so insignificant that only one newspaper in Iceland has so far bothered to report it. Usually all the major newspapers, raido stations and TV stations do but not this time. The reason is quite simple, all is quiet on the Icelandic front.

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The possibility of dismissing the EEA Agreement discussed in a parliament committee

The possibility of dismissing Iceland's membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) is set to be discussed soon in a special parliament committee on European affairs. Halldór Ásgrímsson, Prime Minister of Iceland, informed the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, about this yesterday. The committee was appointed last summer and has representatives from all the political parties represented in the parliament. The majority of the people in the committee is, however, eurosceptic.

The chairman of the committee, Björn Bjarnason Minister of Justice, said to the Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið that the ideas of Ragnar Árnason, professor of economics at the University of Iceland, about possible dismissal of the EEA Agreement, would be discussed in the committee. However, Bjarnason said the committee did not intend to make any decisions on the matter at this point but only to obtain information.

The ideas of Professor Árnason were in short that Iceland should consider dismissing the EEA Agreement and stay outside both the European Union and the European Economic Area. Instead the country should seek to sign bilateral agreements with the EU concerning commerce and other issues similar to what Switzerland has done.

It should be emphasised that this does not mean that the Icelandic government has any intention of dismissing the EEA Agreement. Icelandic authorities simply wish to examine all possibilities when it comes to ensuring Iceland's interests abroad.

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Related story:
Says it's time to reconsider Iceland's EEA membership


Iceland is doing great outside the European Union

According to the Statistics Iceland's estimation Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Iceland grew at a rate of 5.2% in the year 2004 compared to 4.2% in the year before. Unemployment in 2004 was on average about 3% and in last February it was only 2,8%. Those in Iceland who favour EU membership always run into great difficulties when asked why Iceland should join the Union when we are doing much better outside it than most of its memberstates and in some cases even all of them. They have no answers to that. As a result Iceland is most definately not on its way to join the EU. There are simply no compelling reasons to do so, but at the same time many strong reasons to remain outside.

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Statistics Iceland


No change in policy towards the EU in Iceland says Foreign Minister Davíð Oddsson

Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Icelandic Prime Minister and chairman of the Progressive Party, has claimed there was a turning point in the party's attitute towards the European Union during the party's general meeting this weekend (February 25-27). The resolution accepted by the meeting was that "within the Progressive Party gathering of information and work on shaping objectives and possible preparation for membership negotiations with the EU would continue. The conclution of this work should be introduced during the next general meeting in the beginning of the year 2007. If membership negotiations would occur the conclution of them should be put to a referendum." In other words the party will continue its former policy of discussing possible preparation for possible EU membership negotiations which could possibly take place sometime in the future. This is in fact the same policy adopted by the Progressive Party's last general meeting in 2003.

Davíð Oddsson, Foreign Minister of Iceland and chairman of the Independence Party, said today in an interview with the National Broadcasting Service that this was no turning point at all. No new decisions had been made, neither within any party nor the government. Nothing new had happened given that he was able to read the resolution of the Progressive Party. The vice-chairman of the Progressive Party, Guðni Ágústsson, has claimed the same.

Oddsson said furthermore that there was no reason for Iceland to join the EU. Iceland was simply doing very well outside the Union. He also said the EEA agreement between the EFTA and the EU was in good shape and serving its purpose as it should. There was no need to upgrade it as some have claimed. He said this was the opinion of the Icelandic Foreign Ministry after having looked into the matter.

The present government in Iceland is a coalition government formed by the Independence Party and the Progressive Party. The pact between the two parties states that EU membership is not on the agenda.

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Setback for the European Movement in Iceland

The European Movement in Iceland issued a press release yesterday (February 28) declaring its pleasure with the discussion about European matters during the Progressive Party's general meeting this weekend. However, it did not mention one word the final resolution of the meeting - something the movement would have most definitely done if it would have been pleased with the result of the meeting. The movement didn't even make the slightest attempt to interpret the result in its own interests.

This is considered as showing particularly well that the result of the Progressive Party's general meeting in matters concerning the EU was a setback for the pro-EU movement in Iceland.

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