From Iceland — Minister of Foreign Affairs Wanted Explanation from President

Minister of Foreign Affairs Wanted Explanation from President

Published September 15, 2010

Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skerphéðinsson told reporters that he wants an explanation for remarks President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson made to the Chinese press in a recent interview – in particular, that questions about Iceland joining the EU depend largely on negotiations over a number of issues.
In the interview in question, the president said in part, “We have been through the preliminary stages of [EU accession] discussions. But there’s still a big debate in my country about whether we should [join the EU] or not. … The attitudes of the people of Iceland and the final decision whether to join the EU will be dependent very much on what comes out of the negotiations. It’s difficult at this point to tell what can actually be the outcome.”
Össur took issue with this statement, telling Vísir, “The president of course has freedom of speech, like any other Icelander, but it would be nice if he wouldn’t express himself in such a way that it could be interpreted as Iceland’s actual foreign policy.”
Clarifying Iceland’s position, Össur continued, “The parliament, as the highest power of the people, has approved beginning accession talks with the European Union, bringing a contract home, and putting up for national referendum. That is the clear position of Iceland. The president has neither the power nor the authority to say otherwise.”
Össur said he put in a formal request with the office of the president for a clarification of the remarks he made in the interview, and received one. While he believes the explanation is satisfactory, “I believe it right to emphasize that the aforementioned rules apply to the president’s interpretation of Iceland’s political policy.”

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