Majority against applying for EU membership in Iceland

According to a new public opinion poll in Iceland 42,3 percent of Icelanders are now opposed to applying for membership of the European Union (EU) while 34,3 percent are in favour. 23 percent had not made up their minds. The poll was produced on February 18 by the Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið with a sample of 800 people, and hence produced ten days after the Icelandic Prime Minister, Halldór Ásgrímsson, said in a speech at a commerce conference in Reykjavik that he predicted Iceland would have become a memberstate of the EU by 2015. The Icelandic people therefore don’t seem to agree with Mr Ásgrímsson. If only those, who said either their favoured EU membership application or were opposed to it, are taken into the picture 55 percent are opposed while 45% are in favour.

The question asked was: "Should Iceland apply for membership of the European Union?" 98,1 percent of the people in the sample participated. This is the first poll in Iceland on the attitute of Icelanders towards EU membership since August last year when according to a poll by Gallup 43 percent were in favour of joining the EU while 37 percent were opposed. This time, however, a different question was asked; that is whether to apply for EU membership but not just whether to join the Union.

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Iceland won't join EU in the foreseeable future

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.

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Prime Minister Ásgrímsson as good as alone in his predictions

As expected almost no one in Iceland came out in support of the comments made by Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Icelandic Prime Minister, last week that he predicted Iceland would be a member of the European Union by 2015. On the contrary the comments were hevily critizised by people from all parts of the society not the least from a number of people in the government. As a consequence the discussions about Mr Ásgrímsson comments are over. After all everyone in Iceland knows he has no backing and that an Icelandic EU membership is highly unlike to ever taking place.


Mr Ásgrímsson's wishful thinking

Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Icelandic Prime Minister, said today in a speech at a commerce conference hosted by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce (ICC) that he believed Iceland will be a member of the EU by 2015. The conference's topic was Iceland in the year 2015. Mr Ásgrímsson said the most important factor in that regard will be the future and size of the eurozone. Therefore he said it is very important whether Denmark, Sweden and the UK decide to adopt the euro or not. He stressed, however, that Iceland was not on its way into the EU in the forseeable future. The debate in Iceland is not yet "mature enough" according to him and the necessary political circumstances are also missing.

Leaders of the conservative Independence Party, the coalition partner of Mr Ásgrímsson's Progressive Party, have today stressed that as before they do not agree with the Prime Minister on the EU. EU membership is as before not seen as a favourable option for Iceland. The chairman of the Independence Party and Foreign Minister, Geir H. Haarde, said to the Icelandic media that he did not see a reason to react whenever Mr Ásgrímsson expressed himself on EU issues. It was a known fact that the Independence Party disagreed with the Prime Minister on the EU.

In other words Mr Ásgrímsson speaking positively about the EU is nothing new since he is pro-EU himself. Meanwhile, not only his coalition partner in government disagrees with him, he also doesn't have the support of his own party which he admitted today. In other words he is free to believe what he wants according to his own wishful thinking, but it doesn't make it a fact. He simply hasn't got the necessary backing, far from it.

According to the last poll in Iceland on the following of the Icelandic political parties the Independence Party has 44,7% while the Progressive Party only has 9,6%.

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