A report on Iceland’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) will cost taxpayers 25 million ISK, RÚV reports, from a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to an inquiry from the public broadcaster. The costs include the salaries of committee members, the committee secretary, printing, and any other incidental costs, the ministry’s reply states.
Last spring, 13 members of parliament requested a report on the positive and negative aspects of EEA membership. The request was approved on 10 April. Under Alþingi bylaws, the report was due on 19 June, the last day of the parliamentary term. Due to the expected length and complexity of the report, the foreign minister requested an extension in mid-May, which was approved.
Björn Bjarnason was appointed the chair of the committee. He is a well-known member of the Independence Party and close confidant of former Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson. He previously served as education and justice ministers.
The ministry states that the report will be comprehensive and take about a year to complete, and will all told end up costing 25 million ISK to finalise.
The EEA grants Iceland access to the European Single Market, except for fisheries and agricultural goods. In exchange for this exemption, Iceland has no votes in the European Parliament, the commission, and various councils.
The treaty was very controversial when first established. The president at the time, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, seriously considered not signing the bill, and though she had this power, no president had ever used it before. Without the president’s signature, a bill or treaty cannot go into effect. Parliament can then either hold a referendum or withdraw the bill.