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Thousands Protest Government’s EU Application Withdrawal

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Thousands Protest Government’s EU Application Withdrawal

EU application withdrawal protest, Reykjavík, March 15, 2015

From today's protest.Photo: Jóhannes Benediktsson.

More than eight thousand people protested against the government decision to write a letter to the European Union withdrawing Iceland as an applicant country for membership to the EU. The coalition government of the Independence Party and the Progressive Party decided to bypass Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, when a decision was made to ask the EU not to consider Iceland as an application country for membership.

In the summer of 2009 a majority of Alþingi decided to send an application for membership to Brussels. All member states accepted Iceland as a candidate and negotiations started in 2010. The current coalition partners, both of whom are against joining the EU, had promised before the 2013 election to put the question of further negotiations to the general public. In February 2014 the government decided to put a resolution before Alþingi to end the negotiations formally. That resolution died in committee after a widespread protest against the action. More than 20 percent of the public signed a petition urging the government parties to keep their promise of an election on the matter.

The right-wing government has said that it wants to keep the current status of Iceland as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and the 28 EU countries. The EEA agreement means that Iceland and the other two non-EU countries have to implement all EU measures, except in agriculture, fisheries and monetary matters. However, the three countries have no representatives in the European Parliament.

Constitutional experts seem to believe that the letter has no meaning, since it is based only a cabinet resolution, but not formally supported by Alþingi.

This video shows the group gathered this afternoon on a rather cold, but not so windy March day.

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