Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson told news station Stöð 2 that Iceland joining the European Union would save the country up to 150 billion ISK each year, when the country adopts the euro.
Formal accession talks between Iceland and the EU have already begun, but opinion polls show most Icelanders still against joining. Should the EU approve Iceland’s accession, but it gets rejected in a required national referendum, the sitting government may have a difficult time convincing the EU to conduct further talks on the matter.
Joining the EU – long the champion cause of the Social Democrats, who share power with the Leftist-Greens – is still a very contentious matter in Iceland. Most Icelanders want their country to withdraw its application for admission into the European Union, according to the latest poll. Of those surveyed, 58% said they were either very in favor or rather in favor of Iceland withdrawing its application to the EU. At the same time, only 24 said they were very against or rather against the idea.
Nor does the controversy remain just within Iceland. The EU itself has told Iceland that it must settle the Icesave dispute before they can be formally brought in, and UK Foreign secretary William Hague told an EU summit last June that Britain had the power to block Iceland’s membership, unless Icesave was settled.