Former minister for foreign affairs, Össur Skarphéðinsson, says it is far from true that Jean-Claude Juncker, the newly elected president of the European Commission, has closed the door on Iceland’s accession talks, as Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, current minister for foreign affairs, has claimed.
Instead, Össur says, a new government could complete the negotiations just around the time that the five year waiting period Juncker has placed on nations interested in joining the union, ends, visir.is reports.
Gunnar, on the other hand, has interpreted Juncker’s position to mean that discussions between Iceland and the EU are now officially over. The minister’s proposal to officially withdraw from the application process died in parliament this spring when it closed for summer recess. Gunnar does not think it absolutely necessary to propose it anew in the fall. “That is something people just need to evaluate. I have certain doubts that it is necessary in light of [Jencker’s statements],” he said.
Össur’s view of Jencker’s statements is, however, completely different. “This announcement of Juncker’s really fits perfectly with the current state of the accession negotiations, as this government has presented them. They have clearly stated that talks will not continue until after a nation-wide referendum and the Progressive Party has said that that will not happen during this term,” said Össur.
Therefore discussions cannot continue until the next term, with a new elected government, Össur argues. “And after that it will take at least two years to complete the application, approve it through a referendum and then gain approval from the 28 EU Member States. And then it will have been exactly three years since Juncker’s declaration,” claims Össur.
Össur doubts that the government will again propose to officially end EU discussions. In particular as several ministers, among them Bjarni Benediktsson, head of the Independence Party, have declared that the people will be allowed their say in the decision. According to Össur, the problem could easily be solved by adding the referendum to the ballot for the 2016 presidential elections.
Questioned on whether he himself would propose such an idea, Össur said: “I think it very likely that if the government itself does not propose such an addition, which I think it should be given a chance to, that such an idea will be proposed.”