Icelandic European Union membership referendum
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A referendum on the resumption of European Union membership negotiations has been proposed to be held in Iceland. The referendum was suggested after the Independence Party and the Progressive Party formed a coalition government following the April 2013 parliamentary elections. The previous Social Democratic Alliance led government had suspended opening of new chapters within the accession negotiations prior to the election (the opened chapters are still negotiated about), and the incoming government vowed not to resume them unless they were first given a mandate to do so by a referendum.
The then Social Democratic Alliance led government of Iceland applied to join the EU in July 2009 after the country suffered a severe financial crisis. Despite three years of negotiations, several major issues remain outstanding, including the Common Fisheries Policy. On 14 January, the Icelandic government announced that negotiations would be suspended until after the parliamentary election in April. No new chapters will be opened prior to the election, though negotiations will continue on chapters that have already been opened. The ruling left-wing parties suffered a major defeat in the elections, while the centrist Progressive Party had a large victory.
The leaders of the Progressive Party and the Independence Party, which both oppose Icelandic EU membership, announced on 22 May 2013 that a coalition platform had been reached that would suspend all accession talks with the EU and not resume them unless first approved by a referendum. The advisor to Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the incoming Prime Minister, stated that "later in the term there will be a referendum on whether Iceland should continue the talks, although no date has been decided." The new Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson stated that "We believe the accession talks were started without the necessary support in Iceland. We will not go further with the talks. We also have to listen to what the EU has to say about our approach; maybe it will make no sense to hold a referendum"
On 22 February, the governing parties agreed to formally withdraw the membership application, without first holding a referendum on the matter, and submitted a bill to parliament seeking their approval to do so. However, on February 25, Ragnheiður Ríkharðsdóttir, Chairman of the Independence Party parliamentarian group, announced her intention to not vote in favour of the proposal.
In May 2013 voter support for joining the European Union was at 25%. A poll released in January 2014 found that 67.5% of Icelanders support holding a referendum on the continuation of accession negotiations. The government's decision in late February to withdraw Iceland's membership application without a referendum led to thousands of protesters taking to the streets outside of the Parliament buildings in Reykjavik. By 28 February 2014, 82% were in favour of holding the referendum. As of 20 January 2015[update], 53,555 people (22.1% of Iceland's voters) had signed a petition demanding that the promised referendum be held.
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