Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Icelandic Foreign Minister, stressed in an interview yesterday that Icelandic membership of the European Union was not on the agenda. He did so in the wake of a statement by Laila Freiwald, the Swedish Foreign Minister who is on a visit in Iceland, that she wished all the Nordic countries would become members of the EU.
On a conference today in Akureyri Mr. Ásgrímsson then compared the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU with colonialism. He said it was outworn and suffering from a depression. He restated what he has said before that joining the Union was unthinkable unless the CFP was changed fundamentally and Iceland held full authority over Icelandic waters. This is considered as huge news in Iceland and perhaps the biggest news of the year up to now concerning the EU. At the same time it is seen as a big blow for the Icelandic pro-EU movement.
Mr. Ásgrímsson has usually been considered as being quite positive towards the EU although his party, the Progressive Party, is very split on the issue. The policy of the party is that EU membership is not on the agenda. But now it seems as Mr. Ásgrímsson's days as being positive towards the EU are over. At least he is now far more negative towards it than before and Icelandic Europhiles are furious about it. They have been trying hard for many years to win the Progressive Party over to their cause but now that has failed.
Mr. Ásgrímsson will become Prime Minister on September 15 when Davíð Oddsson, the current Prime Minister, will become Foreign Minister.
The speech by Mr. Ásgrímsson (September 8, 2004)