In a keynote speech at the annual convention of the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce yesterday, prime minister Halldór Ásgrímsson, chairman of the Progressive Party, predicted that Iceland would be a full member of the European Union by 2015.
He said that the current level debate concerning entry into the EU was “not sufficiently mature” for entry in the short term and called for increased public discussion about Iceland and the EU.
In an interview with the Icelandic Broadcasting System, RÚV, minister of education and vice-chairman of the Independence Party, Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir, said that she did not agree with the prime minister’s prediction. The EU would have to change substantially for Iceland to consider applying for entry. The foreign minister and chairman of the Independents, Geir H. Haarde, refused to comment on the prime minister’s remarks.
The chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Alliance, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, welcomed the prime minister’s statement. In an interview with RÚV she said that the Social Democrats were in favor of applying for the EU.
Former foreign minister and former chairman of the now-defunct Social Democratic Party (Alþýduflokkurinn), Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, who served in government with the Independents from 1991-1995 and later as ambassador in Washington and Helsinki, said that the Independents would not have much say about the decision whether or not to apply for the EU. The needs of the economy, and Icelandic business, would drive the process, he said. Iceland was already a member of the European Economic Area and had considerable experience in working with the EU, said Jón Baldvin. “We are already 2/3rd’s part of the EU”, he said. An application process should not have to take longer than one year, said Jón Baldvin to TV-station NFS.
The vice-chairman of the opposition Left-Greens said that they wre “not in favor” of applying for EU membership, and the chairman of the opposition Liberals called the prime minister remarks “far-fetched”.