From Iceland — Foreign Minister Without Comment for President

Foreign Minister Without Comment for President

Published December 6, 2010

While the president has been busy expressing his opinions on the European Union to members of the foreign press, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told reporters he has no response to this, even if it seems the president is speaking on behalf of the nation and not just himself.
As has been reported, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, in an interview with Reuters, has once again voiced his doubts about the advantages of Iceland joining the European Union, saying 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.”
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.”
This time around, the foreign minister seems to have a different outlook.
“The president of course has the freedom to express himself,” Össur said in part. “This interview [being quoted by a Vísir reporter] is in harmony with what a lot of Icelanders are saying and experiencing. So he’s not speaking out of step with Icelanders.”
The minister’s remarks are made in light of reactions from Skúli Thoroddsen, the director of the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland, who told Vísir that he believes the president is “speaking in favour of isolationism”.

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