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Opposition United on EU, “Treason” Says Foreign Minister

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Opposition United on EU, “Treason” Says Foreign Minister

Protest against the Icelandic government's withdrawal of the country's EU application, March 15, 2015

From yesterday's rally. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A letter signed by leaders of all four opposition parties in Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, was sent to European Union leaders on Friday in objection of the government’s attempt to terminate Iceland-EU accession talks without passing it through Alþingi first. In response, Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson accused the opposition of “treason.”

The opposition reasons that the government has “no legal authority” for unilaterally terminating EU talks and that the resolution passed by Alþingi on July 16, 2009, mandating the government to apply for membership of the EU is still in force, a statement from the opposition reads.

“The Althingi decided to apply for membership and only the Althingi can revoke that decision. The Government does not dare to face either parliament or the public on this issue, but tries to trick the EU into accepting a change of Iceland’s status on the basis of a letter from the Minister. Iceland is still a candidate country,” Árni Páll Árnason, leader of the Social Democratic Alliance, said in the statement.

The opposition’s letter was addressed to Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Edgars Rinkēvičs, Foreign Minister of Latvia, which currently holds the EU presidency, and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

In addition to Árni Páll, the letter was signed by leader of the Left-Green Movement Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of Bright Future Guðmundur Steingrímsson and leader of the Pirate Party Birgitta Jónsdóttir.

Gunnar Bragi sent a letter to the EU on March 12 stating that is was “the firm position of the Government that Iceland should not be regarded as a candidate country for EU membership.”

“This statement has no legal authority and contradicts the parliamentary resolution from 2009. The statement was kept secret from the public and Parliament and not discussed with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Althingi as is required by law for major foreign policy decisions,” the opposition stresses.

Thousands gathered on Austurvöllur square in Reykjavík yesterday to protest the government’s move, calling for its resignation.

In a statement by the demonstration’s organizers, they reason that as the government of Iceland has “disregarded election promises” of a referendum on continued EU accession talks and “disregarded democracy” it should “resign immediately.”

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