Iceland’s Chamber of Commerce held a meeting yesterday to discuss the business policy of the EU and how membership would affect Iceland. The conclusion of the meeting was that a referendum on EU membership is only a matter of time.
“It could take a long time,” Gudfinna S. Bjarnadóttir, vice-chairman of the Althingi parliament’s trade council and former rector of Reykjavík University, told Vidskiptabladid business daily, after giving the closing speech.
“But eventually we want to question the people in this country about this issue and when the time comes I hope the discussion will be developed and that we have been well informed about our options,” Bjarnadóttir added.
Minister of Trade Björgvin G. Sigurdsson said during the meeting that the discussion on joining the EU had changed radically within the Independence Party, which has always been against EU membership for Iceland, adding representatives of the labor market were now leading the debate.
Percy Westerlund, ambassador of the EU’s executive administration for Norway and Iceland who also attended the meeting, said Iceland could almost be considered an EU member already, though it is excluded from the union’s decision-making process.
Not being able to have full control over the local fishing industry has been the main reason for Iceland not wanting to join the EU until now, but according to Permanent Secretary of State Grétar Már Sigurdsson, the issue is losing importance.
Sigurdsson pointed out that the Icelandic fishing industry could benefit considerably from increased freedom in the trade of seafood products, no less than from a secure access to the catch itself.
Westerlund agreed, adding that whaling would probably prove a greater problem in Iceland’s application for EU membership than fishing, because Iceland and the EU have very different policies on whale hunting.