Iceland two ruling parties, the Progressive Party and the Independence Party, are desperately trying to find a way out of holding a referendum to find out whether Iceland should continue negotiating with the EU about accession.
Last May I wrote a blog which included the following:
Regarding EU accession, the duo want to review the progress of the EU accession process as it stands in Iceland, review the position of EU as a whole on a state-wide level and present the results to the Althingi. No further progress will be made regarding accession talks until after a referendum on the issue, but no date has been set – “it will be after the review of the process has been completed”, says [PM Sigmundur David] Gunnlaugsson.
This week, the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economics published a report that was commissioned by the current government about various issues concerning Iceland’s accession to the EU. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on this report, but the government is using it to say “See, we told you that EU accession would not be in the best interests for Iceland”, and now a parliamentary proposal has been tabled about withdrawing from the EU accession process – without a referendum.
Prior to this, the ruling parties had begun to say things like “Well, if we have a referendum we need to find out whether or not Icelanders want to join the EU or not”, whereas previously the referendum was going to be about whether Iceland should continue with negotiations or not. Now, most Icelanders don’t want to join the EU but most want the accession talks to be completed so that they can take an informed choice on the issue. The former suits the government’s line whereas the latter doesn’t.
The issue has been hotly debated in the Althingi over the last few days and will be continued next week. Some members of the current government are pro-EU, but whether this will make any difference is hard to tell.