University of Iceland law professor Stefán Már Stefánsson, who specializes in European law, said the participation of the European Commission in the EFTA Surveillance Authority’s case against Iceland before the EFTA Court over Icesave is natural given the case’s importance.
The European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“That the European Commission demands intercession in this case highlights its importance,” Stefán told Fréttablaðið. “It definitely has an impact on the entire European financial market.”
Opposition MPs—and even some MPs of the coalition parties—would like Iceland to discontinue the application process for membership to the European Union because of this development.
“It isn’t possible to carry on with talks while we are being threatened and coerced, just as in the mackerel dispute, and now the EU has become a participant in legal proceedings against us,” stated chairman of the Progressive Party Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
However, Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson claims that the move has no effect on the accession talks. “We have always maintained, both the government and opposition, that these two matters are unrelated. If we now turn our sentiment upside down, it looks as if we don’t believe in our own cause.”
Össur said that the European Commission’s intercession in the court case was to be expected. “We considered it likely from the start. It isn’t surprising that in such a large and extensive case, which is possibly the most complicated the EFTA Court has had to deal with, litigants use the legal resources they have in the EEA agreement.”
Össur even reasons that this development may be in Iceland’s favor. “Then we can present our oppositions to the commission’s remarks in writing before the oral proceedings begin. […] I also believe it shows certain weakness at the ESA […], that the ESA may not have as much faith in their proceedings anymore.”
Morgunblaðið reported that Össur had been informed about the European Commission’s decision to intercede in the Icesave case at the end of March but chose to keep it a secret.
Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said in a radio interview on Rás 2 this morning that she had not known about it until the story broke on RÚV. However, she agrees that the Icesave proceedings and EU talks should remain separate affairs.
Pleadings are expected to begin before the EFTA Court at the end of this year.
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