Iceland tempted once more by EU membership bait

Iceland has one of the oldest parliaments in the world: it was first established at Thingvellir in 930. A new government could lead the island nation towards an EU future. [Shutterstock]

Iceland could hold a referendum on joining the EU if new negotiations on forming a coalition government are successful, the head of one of the three parties involved in the political talks said today (2 January).

Elections in October yielded no majority to any of the contesting parties and were followed by weeks of failed negotiations between the conservative Independence Party, the centre-right Reform party and Bright Future.

Bright Future leader Ottarr Proppe said new talks launched Monday have been more successful on the long-disputed issues of fishing and EU membership.

“We have reached a certain settlement on ideas, including this one,” Proppe told public broadcaster RUV, referring to holding a referendum on whether the Nordic nation should resume its stalled EU accession process.

After the economic collapse of 2008, Iceland launched EU membership negotiations in 2009 amid a perceived need for political and monetary security.

But Iceland suspended the talks in 2013 and withdrew its EU application in a letter to the European Commission in 2015.

Iceland officially drops EU membership bid

Iceland yesterday (12 March) announced it was dropping its bid to join the European Union, in line with pledges made by its Eurosceptic government after its election two years ago.

While a majority in the nation of more than 330,000 people are against EU membership, they are in favour of holding a referendum on the issue.

The latest political negotiations are the second attempt by the three parties to form a government after the 29 October election, triggered by the Panama Papers scandal.

“We have crossed the biggest obstacles. Now we will use the next days to write the government’s policy,” Reform leader Benedikt Johannesson told Icelandic daily Frettabladid.

“That in itself should not take a very long time, but we are in no hurry,” he added.

Talks collapsed in November when the three parties failed to find common ground over a range of divisive issues, including institutional reform, fishing and relations with the EU.

“If there is something one has learnt these past two months it’s that nothing is ready until it is ready”, Proppe told broadcaster RUV.

Iceland PM steps down after Panama Papers tax scandal

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson became the first major casualty of the Panama Papers revelations, stepping down yesterday (5 April) after leaked files showed his wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on the country’s collapsed banks.

For more on EU enlargement, follow our coverage.

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