Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde said in his address to the nation in Morgunbladid newspaper on December 31 that the public should not only vote on whether or not Iceland should join the European Union but also whether Iceland should begin membership discussions in the first place.
“Special laws on such a referendum should be established in February and then the referendum should take place a few weeks later, after the matter has been introduced [to the public],” Haarde wrote, according to visir.is.
Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
Independence Party MP Illugi Gunnarsson, who is one of two chairmen for Iceland’s European committee, has earlier stated that membership discussions should be undertaken first and that a referendum should then be held on whether Iceland should join the EU or not.
“If people believe it is better to have a special authority to begin membership discussions, then it is fine by me, but I don’t believe it is necessary. The other way is clearer because then we are voting on something that we are informed about,” Gunnarsson told visir.is.
Gunnarsson said that everything that contributes to increased reconciliation on the EU question is good but that the main thing is that the nation decides whether Iceland should join the EU or not.
Ágúst Ólafur Ágústsson, vice-chairman for the Social Democrats and the European committee’s other chair, is pleased that Haarde is becoming more flexible in his attitude on EU membership discussions.
“I have hopes that the Independence Party will reach a more decisive conclusion at its general meeting. I think it is much more sensible that there will not be a referendum until we have an agreement that we can vote on so that all the facts are clear,” Ágústsson said.
Otherwise there is a risk of the discussions becoming extreme, Ágústsson argued, and revolve around unrealistic expectations and pessimistic talk.
Click here to read more about the EU question.