Government’s EU Declaration Analysis Skip to content

Government’s EU Declaration Analysis

The Icelandic government’s surprise announcement yesterday that the country is no longer a European Union accession state has caused predictable debate, support, outrage—and may not even be true.

As soon as the announcement was made of the letter given to EU chiefs (stating that Iceland no longer considers itself an accession state, has no intention of starting negotiations again, and would appreciate it if the EU also stopped considering it an accession state) people started assembling outside the Alþingi parliament to protest.

While many in Iceland are unenthusiastic for their country to enter the EU, a majority say they would support a referendum to decide whether to halt negotiations or not—something the current government tacitly agreed to before its election but did not follow through on. Protesters claim this was undemocratic. Especially that this massive decision was not even discussed in parliament.

Leader of the Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson defended his coalition government’s actions by saying that the sending of a letter clarifying a government’s position on an issue does not need to be discussed by parliament, and that the decision itself is entirely in line with the will of parliament and the country’s voters at the last election.

Meanwhile, noted professor of political science Eiríkur Bergmann Einarsson says he believes the letter changes nothing and that Iceland is still an accession country. As the European Union application was approved by a specific parliamentary resolution in 2009, he reasons, it cannot be rescinded without a new resolution canceling it out. In the meantime, he says, another letter saying “ignore that last letter, we still want to negotiate” would technically be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling again.

The EU office (a sort of unofficial consulate cum marketing office) declined to comment, but expects to make a statement soon.

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