From Iceland — Parties Seeking EU Agreement

Parties Seeking EU Agreement

Published March 11, 2009

Iceland’s political parties are seeking to reach an agreement with regards to the European Union.
Bjarni Benediktsson, an MP for the Conservative Party, said that the next big step for parliament to take will be for all the parties to reach an agreement on whether or not to apply for EU membership.
Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, an MP for the (pro-EU) Progressive Party, asked Benediktsson what his position was on applying for membership. Benediktsson responded by saying that while it was the position of his party that Iceland would be better off financially remaining outside of the EU, there are two reasons for reconsidering that position. First, the economic system needs serious reform, and second, Iceland should consider looking elsewhere for its defense needs since the NATO base closed in 2006. He added that it was “natural” that the Icelandic people vote on the issue themselves.
Helgi Hjörvar, MP for the (pro-EU) Social Democrats, welcomed Benediktsson’s remarks, but not all Conservatives are convinced of the EU’s benefits – MP Pétur Blöndal remarked that the EU was a type of “megastate” and Iceland, should it join, would only be a tiny village within it, and there would be “no understanding” within the EU of Iceland’s interests.
As it stands, EU support in parliament is mixed. While Social Democrats and Progressives are decidedly pro-EU, the Left-Greens – who form the minority government with the Social Dems and the Progressives – are against it, as is the Liberal Party. The Conservatives are against it in platform, although more and more Conservatives have been making pro-EU noises. All parties, however, are in agreement that the matter needs to be put to national referendum.

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