Majority of Icelanders want talks on EU membership

10th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Observers say both Icelanders for and against joining the EU want to apply for membership in order to bring the drawn-out EU debate in Iceland to a close.

Reykjavik -- A majority of Icelanders want to begin membership negotiations with the European Union but a much smaller number actually want to join the 27-member bloc, a fresh poll showed Monday.

A Capacent Gallup poll, commissioned by the pro-EU Federation of Icelandic Industries, showed that 64.2 percent of Icelanders wanted to enter into membership negotiations with the EU, while 28.2 percent were opposed.

A total of 7.6 percent of the 1,313 people questioned between February 11 and 25 said they were undecided.

However, when asked if they wanted to join the 27-member bloc, opponents were in the majority.

Only 39.7 percent were in favour of joining the EU, whereas 45.5 percent opposed and 14.8 percent were undecided.

Observers say both those for and against joining the EU want to apply for membership in order to bring the drawn-out EU debate in Iceland to a close, with a possible membership deal being put to a national vote.

Iceland's interim left-wing Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said in February that joining the EU and the euro zone would be the best plan for the crisis-hit country.

"In my opinion, the best option is still to join the EU and adopt the euro," she said.

Support for EU negotiations has soared since Iceland's once-booming financial sector crumbled in October, pushing thousands of the country's 320,000 inhabitants out of their jobs as their savings evaporated.

The former government was forced to resign in late January amid massive public protests over the crisis.

Snap elections are expected to be called for April 25.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in February that Iceland's membership negotiations could go quickly if and when it applied to join the bloc.

"Iceland is a very solid democratic European country, one of the oldest democracies in Europe" and "meets all the democratic criteria" for EU membership, Rehn told AFP.

Reykjavik already applies "at least two-thirds of European legislation" through its participation in the wider European Economic Area, he added.


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