Iceland on the International Front - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland on the International Front

Published March 16, 2010

The Minister of Foreign Affairs reports that the ruling coalition is in agreement when it comes to joining the European Union. The British and Dutch have said they are willing to go back to the table over Icesave.
RÚV reports that Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson was asked by Independence Party MP Einar K. Guðfinnsson if the matter of joining the EU should be reviewed, in light of recent commentary from Minister of Agriculture and Fishing Jón Bjarnason, who portrayed a grim outlook for Iceland within the EU.
Skarphéðinsson responded that the advantages for a small country such as Iceland to join the EU were great, even if the impact on fishing and agriculture will be significant.
When asked if the ruling coalition is in agreement over the EU question or not, Skarphéðinsson responded, “The answer is an absolute yes. It is the position of this government to seek membership in the European Union, and then put the matter before the people,” refering to public referendum.
Bjarnason hails from the Leftist-Greens, a party that has had a strong anti-EU stance before becoming part of the government, and helped create the condition that any question of joining the EU be put to public referendum. Skarphéðinsson, on the other hand, is a Social Democrat – his party has always been pro-EU.
Iceland applied for EU membership last summer, and top EU officials have expressed a willingness to begin talks as soon as possible. That said, only about 33% of Icelanders are in favor of joining.
Also on the international front:
A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Finance told Reuters that Holland and the UK are ready to begin talks again with Iceland over Icesave. He said that in order for that to happen, however, Iceland needs to make an offer with the interests of all three countries in mind. He added that Dutch Minister of Finance Jan Kees de Jager has been in touch with Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, and agreed that the ball is now in Iceland’s court.


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