The leader of one of Iceland’s two governing parties has said he will fight against the country entering the European Union; but also reiterated that he does not want the Icelandic membership application to be withdrawn.
Steingrímur J. Sigfúson, the leader of the Left Green Movement and Minister of Economic Affairs and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, told the farmers’ newspaper that he will fight Icelandic entry to the EU, although he feels it would not be advisable to withdraw the application before a final membership contract is completed and ready to vote on.
Asked if the Left Greens have broken their election promise that a Left Green government would not apply for EU membership, Steingrímur said that the party has had to go further into the process than he initially thought before the election and that the fight has been harder than expected. But, he says, at every party meeting in which the EU has been discussed, the Left Green Movement has decided not to walk out of government over the issue.
Although there are pro- and anti- Europe voices in all parties, they are broadly split into two pro-EU and three anti-EU parties. The second (and largest) governing party, the Social Democrats, strongly support EU membership, as does The Movement, the smallest opposition party. Split purely along party lines that means there are 23 pro-EU seats in parliament and 37 against. But the inclusion of three independents, those who do not support the EU but wish to conclude negotiations and pro-Europe voices within sceptical parties, the story is not as simple as it might be.
Steingrímur told the farmers’ newspaper that it would not be beneficial for Iceland to turn its back on the ongoing negotiations and that it is important to get a solid conclusion to the process. The toughest chapters of the accession talks (such as farming and fisheries) have yet to begin.
On a personal note Steingrímur said that his belief that Iceland’s national interests lie outside the EU is only getting stronger and that the benefits of having an independent currency have shown themselves recently.
Icelandic farmers are by-and-large not supporters of either the European Union or the Left Green Movement; meaning that Steingrímur probably chose his words carefully when talking to their newspaper.