From Iceland — Conservative Chair Backpedals On EU Referendum

Conservative Chair Backpedals On EU Referendum

Published March 17, 2014

Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson now appears to be open to the idea of a public referendum on EU accession talks, despite calling the idea “unrealistic” less than two weeks ago.

RÚV reports that debates over ending accession talks with the European Union went well into the night in parliament. A joint proposal from the Pirates, the Social Democrats and the Left-Greens was submitted, which suggested that a public referendum be held on whether or not to continue accession talks.

Bjarni addressed parliament in the midst of the debate, where he made a significant reversal of a position he made public less than two weeks ago. In his speech to parliament last night, he said in part:

“[A referendum on continuing EU talks] was certainly discussed before the elections, in connection with forming the ruling coalition, and afterwards. And doing it is still being considered.”

Only ten days previous, Bjarni had quite a different opinion on the matter, telling reporters at the time that he has “always been of the opinion that it is questionable, and in this case unrealistic, to hold a public referendum on matters that are not on the parliamentary agenda.”

Just under 50,000 Icelanders have already signed a petition calling for the continuation of accession talks to be put before public referendum, and thevast majority of Icelanders, from every political party, have said they want to see such a referendum initiated.

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