Icelandic parties clarify EU positions ahead of snap polls

31st March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The pro-European Union Social Democrats, who on Saturday elected interim Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir as their new leader, have made joining the block a key issue in their campaign.

Reykjavik -- Iceland's main parties were on Monday polishing their election strategies ahead of snap polls next month and spelling out their positions on EU membership.

The pro-European Union Social Democrats, who on Saturday elected interim Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir as their new leader, have made joining the block a key issue in their campaign.

"We want conditions for the Icelandic public to be among the best in Europe," said Sigurdardottir in her acceptance speech.

"The best way to seek this goal is to enter into negotiations with the EU on full membership and the adoption of the euro as soon as possible," she added.

According to the latest opinion poll her party enjoys 30-percent support.

The Social Democrats was the junior partner in the right-left government ousted in January over Iceland's deep economic crisis.

But it was struggling Monday to find common ground on the question of membership with its new left-wing coalition partner, the Left Green party.

The Left Greens, who secured 26-percent support in the latest poll, have traditionally opposed joining the 27-nation bloc.

They argue that Brussels would infringe on Icelandic sovereignty and limit its authority over fishing rights.

Party leader Steingrimur Sigfusson however hinted Monday that an accord on the issue was not out of reach, in comments to the Frettabladid daily.

"I do not think any doors have been shut on cooperation or on how we deal with this issue," said Sigfusson, who also serves as minister of finance, fisheries and agriculture in the interim government.

Ousted prime minister Geir Haarde's conservative Independence Party, which was credited with 24-percent support in the latest opinion poll, remains opposed to joining the EU.

The party, which elected 39-year-old parliamentarian Bjarni Benediktsson as its new leader on Sunday, has called for two separate referendums on the EU issue: one on launching talks with the block and another on actual membership.

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 -- support for EU negotiations has soared.

A poll published earlier this month showed that a full 64.2 percent of Icelanders wanted to start membership talks with the EU, while 28.2 percent were opposed.

But asked if they actually wanted to join the 27-member bloc, it was a different story: only 39.7 percent were in favour of joining the EU, whereas 45.5 percent opposed and 14.8 percent were undecided.

Iceland's legislative election is scheduled for April 25.

In May 2007, the Independence Party won 36.6 percent of votes, well ahead of the Social Democrats' 26.8 percent and the Left Green party's 14.3 percent.

AFP/Expatica

 

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