Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said he believes Iceland is better off without the EU.
“Iceland is probably better off with other forms of agreement and connections with the EU than full membership,” he said. “I am still very sceptical when it comes to the overall benefits of membership.”
Steingrímur hails from the Leftist-Green Party, many of whose members are staunchly anti-EU. However, the Leftist-Greens are in a coalition government with the Social Democrats, who have always favoured Iceland joining the EU, and the official platform of the Leftist-Greens states that ultimately, the question of whether or not to join should be put up for referendum.
Steingrímur pointed out that Iceland has fisheries and agriculture to protect, making him wary of joining. This is in reference to Iceland’s vast fishing waters becoming EU fishing waters as well, should the country join. Iceland is currently in accession talks with the EU.
On other matters, Steingrímur said that the Icelandic crown has “served the country well” through its stormy economic recovery, adding, “Devaluation is never without a cost but it definitely has created a good competitive advantage for our exports and it is supporting the real economy through the crisis.”
On the subject of Icesave, Steingrímur said that he felt the No vote was “inevitable” in many ways, saying that the British use of an anti-terrorism law to freeze Landsbanki’s assets was still “fresh in people’s minds.”
Overall, Steingrímur expressed confidence that Iceland’s economy will continue to recover. “We still have this year in mind for returning to the capital markets…we have by no means postponed this,” he said. “We want to show the outside world that Iceland is in a position to do so.”
The interview in its entirety can be read here.