Thursday, July 29, 2010

Iceland is not all that keen either

There were two recent items about Iceland and the EU on EUObserver. On Monday we were told that formal talks on Iceland joining the European Union are to begin the following day.
Talks will formally begin on Tuesday. The small north Atlantic island, with a population of just 320,000, has aligned itself with many EU laws and is seen as fitting snugly with the slightly more ineffable European 'norms', but negotiations on a few key issues - such as fishing rights and its traditional whale hunting - are expected to be difficult.

Iceland, whose fishing policies have largely been a success in terms of sustainability, is keen to see that its rich fishing waters are not over-fished by EU member states. The EU's common fisheries policy has led to the severe depletion of stocks in western Europe.

"Efforts will have to be made by Iceland," Belgian foreign minister Steven Vanackere said after chairing the meeting in Brussels. "Think of environment, think of whale hunting."
How about: think of the environment, think of the catastrophic CFP?

By Wednesday we were told that "Brussels" was worried about falling support for EU membership in Iceland.
"I'm concerned by the current lack of broad public support for European Union membership in Iceland," said enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele speaking to reporters alongside Icelandic foreign minister Oessur Skarphedinsson after talks were opened.

"This shows that there's a need for more objective information about the EU and its policies," he added.
At present opposition to membership seems to be around 60 per cent, according to EUObserver itself. Any more "objective information" and that proportion might go up to 75 or 80 per cent.

Not all is lost, however. There is, apparently, one person who believes support for membership is going up. As the invaluable EU News from Iceland puts it: "Iceland Foreign Minister in his own world".
Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson said yesterday in an interview with, the website of the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið, that he thought that support for his government's application to join the European Union had increased among Icelandic MPs. Ask what evidence he had for his claim he said he knew the parliament.
Not very well, it seems:
Today has asked leading people from the other political parties represented in the Icelandic parliament, Althingi, if their think support for EU membership has increased among their MPs. They all agree that they haven't sensed anything of that sort but on the contrary that there is a rising scepticism among them. This includes the chairman of the Left Greens, the junior coalition partner. It is safe to say that Skaphéðinsson's comments have amazed people in Iceland as no one recognises them to be true. Not even MPs in his own party find them in the position of being able to back up his comments.
Mind you, Mr Skarphéðinsson may have his own reasons for insisting on the growing popularity of the EU. He has been travelling round the member states hoping to nab a job for himself trying to reassure the colleagues about the unhelpful Icelanders.

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