Iceland fishing minister says scrap EU bid –

Iceland fishing minister says scrap EU bid Published:  26 August, 2010

DIVISION appears to be opening up in the Iceland coalition government over the country’s plan to join the European Union  – with the fishing industry  at the heart of it.

According to media reports coming out of Reykjavik, Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Jon Bjarnason has said the time has come to stop the  processing Iceland’s application for membership of the EU.

Mr Bjarnason is a member of the Left Geen Party which forms part of the coalition government elected after the economic collapse almost two years ago. The Left Greens are opposed to EU membership, but have said they are prepared to let the issue be decided by the people in a national refendum. The Icelandic press is reporting that the Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir is ‘not amused’ by her  minister’s declaration. Her party, the Social Democrats, are strongly in favour of membership of the European club.

This is not the first time that the fisheries minister has clashed with his own government. Two months ago Mr Bjaranson spoke out against a plan to merge his ministry with the ministry of energy and tourism, arguing that fishing was so vital to Iceland’s economic recovery it woluld be folly to scrap his department now.

According to opinion polls, opposition to the EU among the population continues to grow and is almost certain to increase further over the current mackerel dispute. Most Icelanders are in favour of their country’s decision to give itself a 130,000 ton mackerel quota in defiance of the EU and Norway. They will regards calls to ban Icelandic and Faroese seafood products as an example of Europe once again ‘ganging up’ on  two small  and independent minded fishing nations. More moderate voices are hoping the dispute will be settled by negotiation in the autumn.