Foreign Minister Össur Skarphédinsson submitted a parliamentary resolution on behalf of the government to the Althingi parliament yesterday, proposing that Iceland launches membership negotiations with the European Union.
Inside Iceland’s Althingi parliament. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
Skarphédinsson declared the event as historical, Fréttabladid reports.
The parliamentary resolution of the two largest opposition parties, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, that the parliament’s foreign affairs committee prepare membership negotiations with the EU, was also submitted yesterday.
Skarphédinsson said that the opposition’s resolution showed that it is possible to reach an agreement among MPs on applying for EU membership.
The minister, who is member of the Social Democrats, discussed the main arguments for and against joining the EU and said he was certain that Iceland could agree on special solutions on the matters most important to Iceland, such as fisheries, while negotiating with the EU.
However, Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, who is also chairman of the Left-Greens, said he doubted that exceptions and special solutions could be achieved. He bases his view on Norway’s experience.
Sigfússon further stated that he believed the Icelandic nation would reject EU membership in a referendum.
The MPs of the Independence and Progressive Parties criticized the government’s resolution. “It is an unusable piece of paper,” declared Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, vice-chair of the Independence Party, adding that Brussels would laugh at Iceland once the resolution has been translated to foreign languages.
However, Gunnarsdóttir emphasized that she wants Iceland to apply for EU membership—just according to the opposition’s proposals.
Chairman of the Progressive Party Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson claimed that if the government’s resolution is passed, Iceland will begin negotiations with the EU without self-respect and that it is unlikely that a favorable agreement will be reached that way.
However, Thráinn Bertelsson, MP for the third opposition party, the Civic Movement, said his party celebrates the resolution because the parliament will have the authority to reach a conclusion on the nature of the membership negotiations and then the nation will decide whether or not to join the EU in a referendum.
The main difference between the two resolutions lies in that the government wants the parliament to decide whether membership discussions should be launched but the opposition wants the foreign affairs committee to prepare a potential application.
The government’s resolution assumes that before membership discussions are launched, a wide-reaching consultation with parties of interest on the goals of the negotiations should take place.
Furthermore, the resolution proposes that a professional negotiation committee be appointed by the government and that another committee, established by Althingi, represent the parliament in its relations with the negotiation committee.
The opposition’s resolution assumes that the foreign affairs committee prepares a report on Iceland’s most important interest and works on a framework to address these matters in a possible application.
Click here to read more about the opposition’s EU resolution.