There are naturally many things that the European Union should never have done and one of them was to accept Iceland’s application to join the bloc. But Brussels can be pitied up to a certain point as it was deceived to think that the Icelandic people desired membership. Nothing, however, could be further from the reality. The Icelandic people have never wished to become members of the EU and never as little as today. As much as two thirds oppose membership according to successive opinion polls by various polling companies. An eventual accession treaty, if it comes to that, will have to go through a referendum in Iceland.
In the aftermath of the economic collapse in Iceland in the autumn of 2008 an attempt was made by the Social Democratic Alliance – the only Icelandic political party which supports EU membership – to get an application through. They managed to do so after the 2009 general elections but not as a result of increased public support but because the leadership of the eurosceptic Left Green Movement decided to ignore its party’s policy and allow the application in order to form a government with the social democrats.
The EU application was delivered in July 2009 and since it has been constantly fought over within the government and among the coalition MPs no less than in the society at large. Some of them have now recently deserted the government mainly over the EU issue leaving it with support of only 32 MPs out of the total number of 63. In other words the smallest possible majority. The government has had great difficulties getting its policies through the parliament ever since it came to power and will now obviously endure much tougher situation.
The EU was made to believe by Iceland’s social democrats and other Pro-EU people that joining the bloc enjoyed the necessary support in Iceland. Believing that Brussels accepted the application. But in the coming months European journalists and politicians slowly started to realise the truth. Especially those who visited Iceland to get acquainted with the situation themselves. They have simply been stunned finding out first hand how limited support joining the EU really has in the country.
This view has even been aired in reports produced for the EU like in the most recent country briefing on Iceland for the European Parliament earlier this month. The briefing is concluded with a statement that the accession negotiations with Icelanders seem „increasingly pointless“ in the eyes of „informed observers“ due to the insisting on keeping full control over the country’s waters. But Icelanders want more than that. They want to retain their independence which is of course entirely inconsistent with EU membership.
The recent referendum in Iceland regarding the so-called Icesave dispute with the British and Dutch governments was a futher demonstration on how little Icelanders care about joining the EU. In the months before the referendum the Icelandic people were consistently threatened by politicians and officials from the two countries as well as domestic supporters of giving in to the British and Dutch demands that not doing so would put the EU application at risk and even mean the end of it. Icelanders still voted overwhelmingly no.
The EU is of course in a rather difficult situation. Brussels probably wishes it had never accepted the Icelandic application. But the EU desperately wants to present an image to the world that despite it is struggling economically there is still a demand for joining the bloc – even if it is not true. Unfortunately for the EU the accession negotiations with Iceland are not only increasingly pointless but entirely pointless and always have been.