Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has said that the country’s dispute with the European Union over its mackerel quota is the perfect example of the importance of sovereignty.
Gunnlaugsson said that demands by the EU for the Scandinavian country to reduce its mackerel catch highlights how important it is to maintain independence.
The prime minister, whose coalition government was voted in last month, said during his campaign that he would not consider joining the EU until after a national referendum is held. He explained that opinion was divided on whether joining the EU would be beneficial, but said that everybody is agreed on the fact that the EU must convince Iceland it is a positive move.
Last year, the EU and Norway were unable to reach an agreement with Iceland on its mackerel quota in the North Atlantic. Ireland and Scotland have been protesting that Iceland and the Faroe Islands are fishing well beyond sustainable levels.
The EU and Norway proposed a four per cent slice of the $1.4bn mackerel take could go to Iceland, but the North Atlantic nation wants 15 per cent. Meanwhile, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have issued unilateral quotas in their fishing grounds that exceed by a long way what EU members view as sustainable levels.
Ireland and Scotland have, in response, demanded economic sanctions are placed on Iceland.
Gunnlaugsson said that considering the lengthy debate regarding implications for fishing when joining the EU, Icelanders want to see whether the union will treat the country with greater fairness in terms of fishing within its own economic zone.