Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, in an interview with Reuters, has once again voiced his doubts about the advantages of Iceland joining the European Union, just months after government officials cautioned the president not to speak on behalf of Icelandic authorities, who are currently entering accession talks with the EU.
In the interview, the president says in part, “The debate more than a year ago to apply for membership [in the EU] was that the global financial markets have developed in such a way that it was difficult to maintain a separate currency for a small nation. … But since then we have seen one euro country after another in serious difficulty. Most recently, what’s happening in Ireland. So the advantages of having a different currency look less clear now. … The euro is not a fail-proof formula for economic success as Greece and Ireland and other countries are now experiencing.”
It should be noted, however, that the troubles that Greece and now Ireland are experiencing are not tied to the euro at all, but rather in part to excessive national debt for the former, and an over-abundance of property for the latter.
The remarks are similar to ones he made last September, when he spoke on behalf of the Icelandic people in saying that “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.”
At that time, Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skerphéðinsson took issue with the president’s remarks, saying, “The parliament, as the highest power of the people, has approved beginning accession talks with the European Union, bringing a contract home, and putting it up for national referendum. That is the clear position of Iceland. The president has neither the power nor the authority to say otherwise.”
At the time of this writing, there is no word on whether the president consulted with Icelandic officials before providing his analysis to the foreign press, nor does it appear that he clarified he was speaking for himself, personally, and not as the head of the Icelandic state.