Law and Political Science academics are in two camps over the ruling coalition’s actions and the validity of the Foreign Minister’s letter to the EU, announcing the end of accession talks.
Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, insisted in the news this weekend that his letter to the EU announcing the end of accession talks stands, despite not being approved by parliament ahead of time.
As reported, around 7.000 Icelanders – circa 2% of Iceland’s population – protested Gunnar Bragi’s actions in front of parliament yesterday.
Dr. Eiríkur Bergmann, Professor of Politics and Director of Centre for European Studies at Bifrost University in Iceland, told RÚV that the ruling coalition are required to formally withdraw the EU application through the parliament as the decision to apply for EU membership was also done formally via the parliament in 2009.
“It’s as though this is some kind of diplomatic experiment wherein there is an attempt to end accession talks without actually withdrawing the formal application” said Eiríkur. “The application [for EU membership] simply hasn’t been severed. It has not been formally withdrawn and as long as that is the case the application remains valid. It’s possible that Brussels will take into account the government’s feelings on the matter by removing some names off some lists but that doesn’t change the formal status of the application.”
Meanwhile, Professor of Law, Björg Thorarensen, has said that while it is very unusual that the ruling coalition did not inform parliament or announce the letter intended to end EU accession talks ahead of time, they were not technically outside the rule of law.
“In reality, the parliamentary resolution from 2009 describes the will of the parliament, that the presiding government [at that time] wished to apply for EU membership,” Björg told RÚV. “It was clear what would happen if the government changed. That parliamentary resolution is no longer adhered to and does not legally apply to the current ruling coalition.”
However, according to Ministerial Law (Lög um ráðherraábyrgð) Article 8. b., all ministers are required to run major decisions by parliament before acting on them – something Gunnar Bragi did not do.
Perhaps the most accurate prediction has been made by Ólafur Þ. Harðarson, Political Science Professor at the University of Iceland, who told RÚV that he expects a political war to break out over Gunnar Bragi’s letter to the EU and the interpretation of it.
Indeed Gunnar Bragi has already accused the opposition parties of attempting a “coup d’etat” by sending a letter to the EU in which they detail that Gunnar Bragi does not have the authority to declare EU accession talks over; that the matter needs to be put up for a vote first.