“I think that would be a break of earlier promises made by four ministers from the Independence party that promised before the elections in 2013 that no further moves would be decided without a referendum where people should decide whether the application should continue,” Ossur Skarphedinsson, who was Iceland’s foreign minister at the time the application was submitted in 2009, told Sputnik.
According to Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, the bid is no longer valid and runs counter to the policies of Iceland’s new government, and that “all the work on it that had been carried out before was in fact obsolete.”
Ossur Skarphedinsson reminded that after the first attempt to withdraw Iceland’s EU application in 2013, which sparked public protests, it was agreed that a referendum on the application’s status is absolutely necessary.
The Icelandic prime minister said that the government would make steps toward removing capital controls. However, Skarphedinsson believes that Iceland would not be able to “happily survive lifting capital controls”, while membership of the European Union would, on the contrary, provide the country with the necessary economic security. He went on to explain that his main reason for wanting to join the European Union was the desire to secure the country’s economy, as it is easier to survive financial turbulence in a big currency union, even though it is currently going through bad times.
“I think it is wise for Iceland to become a member of the large currency union. And what is desirable for Iceland is to have stability for businesses, for individuals that they would have within the monetary system of the EU. It is a security issue,” Skarphedinsson stressed.
Iceland is closely connected with the European Union which accounts for two thirds of the country’s foreign trade. Moreover, Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area, the European Free Trade Association and part of the Schengen Area, and participates in a wide variety of EU agencies and programs.
Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was quoted as saying Sunday by Icelandic newspaper Visir that Reykjavik’s participation in EU talks “isn’t really valid anymore” because of the “changes in the European Union and because it’s not in line with the policies of the ruling government to accept everything that the last government was willing to accept. Because of that, we’re back at square one.”
This is the second attempt by the current Icelandic government to revoke its EU-membership bid. The previous resolution to withdraw the application resulted in public protests and calls for a referendum on the issue.
“Despite the postponement of the application, it would be very easy for Iceland to resume the negotiations and on behalf of the EU, it would not take too much time,” Skarphedinsson said citing several research papers on Iceland’s accession to the EU. “So I believe, what is said about the previous work being useless as time was lost, is totally unfounded.”
Skarphedinsson, who was Iceland’s foreign minister at the time the application was submitted in 2009, underlines that “this part of his declaration was based on the deep lack of knowledge on how these things work.” He explained that Iceland is already forced to adopt legislative changes made in the European Union, as it is closely connected to the bloc.
“For example, [EU members] have a very radical proposal regarding surveillance systems in financial markets – and we have to adopt that. So we more or less have adopted all the major legislative changes that have been made by the EU in the last two years. So this was incorrect of [the prime minister],” Skarphedinsson told Sputnik.
Following the financial crisis, Iceland submitted an EU application in 2009. Formal negotiations on Iceland’s accession to the European Union began in 2010, but after the country’s 2013 elections, the coalition government of the Progressive and Independence parties decided not to pursue the bid.