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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 8th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


“Iceland will be a hugely important partner if they join, contributing to the EU’s geographic completeness,” said Iceland’s ambassador to the EU, Stefan Haukur Johannesson, who was appointed chief negotiator in the upcoming accession talks; he continued – “The northwestern flank will be added, which is key in the age of climate change and when the EU is starting to develop its own Arctic agenda.”

The EU is keen to get a toehold on the Arctic, with its enormous oil and gas potential and shipping possibilities via Northwest Passage. The bloc itself has no territorial access to the pole. With Iceland on board, the EU would instantly be on the Arctic Council, membership of which has been blocked by Canada.

But Iceland’s governing coalition is divided over the EU application. The normally euro-sceptic Left Greens gave their okay to moving ahead with negotiations in order to join the government, but much of their membership has not reacted well to the decision and MPs are under pressure from local branches of the party. Some analysts are speculating that it could split the party in two, with the more environmentally minded wing of the party the more pro-EU.

The centre left Social Democratic Alliance and their far-left coalition partners are also split over what attitude to take toward energy-intensive industries and a range of other policy issues.   It is far from certain if the government were to fall that any new coalition would continue with the application process.

On Friday, a poll carried out by the Research Center of Bifröst University for the TV channel Stöð Two found that 54 percent of Icelanders now oppose membership while only 29 percent are in favour, with 17 percent uncertain.

The survey suggests that opposition to joining the bloc has hardened in the last few months, as a poll in August had EU supporters on 34.7 percent and opponents on 48.5 percent. In September, another poll put backers of accession on 32.7 percent and opponents on 50.2 percent.

After the crash of Iceland’s three banks  people are still very angry. They don’t know who they should be angry at, so the EU, seemingly,  has turned into a sort of scapegoat. “There’s anger at everything foreign – the Brits, the Dutch, the IMF, the EU. They make no distinction,” said the Ambassador. “Another opinion says that with the banking collapse, there was a panic. a huge majority wanted to join the EU – now that is gone.” This opinion also says –  “If we joined the EU, we would get maybe five MEPs, similar to Malta, and three votes in the Council of Ministers. Our voice just would not be heard there. Our interests would instantly be sidelined by the bigger countries.” Iceland’s main interest is in the fisheries, that provide it with one third of the foreign currency earnings, and the EU might not help in this area.

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