Iceland to withdraw EU membership bid amid protests

iceland flag littleIceland is to withdraw its membership bid for the EU without holding the referendum that the two ruling parties had previously promised, the government has announced.

The right-wing Independence Party and the centre-left Progress Party agreed on a bill asking the government to withdraw the EU membership application, which the North Atlantic nation initially presented in 2010.

Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson explained that any proposal like this is not his responsibility. He noted that the foreign minister in 2010 presented the application proposal, so naturally it is he who must present the proposal to withdraw it.

The move was widely expected as the current ruling government suspended talks on joining the EU indefinitely last September, after a promise made in its election campaign earlier that year.Iceland is part of the European Economic Area and a member of the Schengen.

However, the coalition promised citizens in May that they could decide in a referendum. The draft bill said there will be no application before a referendum is held to discover if the Icelandic people want to join the EU. The withdrawal was met with protests, as although the majority of Icelanders are against Iceland entering the EU, they believe they should be able to choose through a referendum.

The main reason Iceland have pulled out of talks to join the EU is the potential effect it could have on the fishing industry, a concern that was never raised during negotiations between the bloc and the country.

Those who back Iceland joining the EU are from the Social Democrats party and believe the main advantage would be to adopt the euro, which could in turn stabilise the economy.

Independence Party leader Ragnheiður Rikhardsdóttir admitted a referendum would have been her preferred choice, but her party opted to withdraw the application.