Iceland’s centre-right government is to seek parliamentary approval to withdraw its application to join the European Union (EU), opting not to restart accession talks that were put on ice a year ago.
A bill proposing the withdrawal was sent to parliament late on Friday and was due to be debated next week, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told dpa on Saturday.
The move came after the parliamentary caucuses of the ruling parties — the centrist Progressive Party and the conservative Independence Party — voted on Friday to withdraw the application.
In comments on the proposal quoted by online news site Visir.is, the government said it “did not have a support base” to complete the accession process.
Opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of Icelanders oppose joining the EU.
Iceland was instead to focus on its ties with the EU as member of the European Economic Area (EEA) — the free trade zone comprising non-EU countries Liechtenstein and Norway, and the 28-strong EU bloc.
Iceland opened membership talks in 2009 under a left-leaning coalition that took office in the wake of the financial crisis that saw Iceland’s main banks collapse.
The accession talks were put on ice ahead of general elections in April which resulted in a change of government, opposed to EU membership.
When the centre-right coalition took office in May, 27 negotiation chapters had been opened with the EU of which 11 were “provisionally closed”, said a study commissioned by the Foreign Ministry.
The report from the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland said six chapters including the challenging issue of fisheries, a mainstay of the country, had not been opened.