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.[1] 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.[1] On 14 January, the Icelandic government announced that negotiations would be suspended until after the parliamentary election in April.[2] No new chapters will be opened prior to the election, though negotiations will continue on chapters that have already been opened.[3] 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.[4][5][1] 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."[6][7] 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"[8]

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.[9][10] However, on February 25, Ragnheiður Ríkharðsdóttir, Chairman of the Independence Party parliamentarian group, announced her intention to not vote in favour of the proposal.[11]

Public opinion[edit]

In May 2013 voter support for joining the European Union was at 25%.[12] A poll released in January 2014 found that 67.5% of Icelanders support holding a referendum on the continuation of accession negotiations.[13] 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.[14][15][16] By 28 February 2014, 82% were in favour of holding the referendum.[17] As of 20 January 2015, 53,555 people (22.1% of Iceland's voters) had signed a petition demanding that the promised referendum be held.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Icelanders to get a referendum on joining the EU BBC News, 22 May 2013
  2. ^ "Iceland Won’t Finish EU Talks Before Next Parliament Elections". Businessweek. 2012-03-26. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  3. ^ "BREAKING NEWS: Iceland to Slow Down EU Talks". Iceland Review. 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  4. ^ Gardner, Andrew (2013-05-23). "Iceland to hold vote on EU accession talks". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  5. ^ "Stjórnarsáttmáli kynntur á Laugarvatni". 22 May 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Government to halt EU accession talks indefinitely". 2013-05-25. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  7. ^ "Iceland Freezes EU Plans as New Government Shuns Euro Crisis". 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  8. ^ Milne, Richard (2013-05-22). "Iceland’s new coalition government suspends EU accession talks". Financial Times. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  9. ^ "Iceland moves to withdraw EU application". The Hindu. 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  10. ^ "Iceland to withdraw EU membership bid amid protests". IceNews. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  11. ^ Stefánsson, Páll (2014-02-26). "Ten Percent of Icelanders Sign EU Referendum Petition". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  12. ^ Iceland heads for EU referendum The Daily Telegraph, 22 May 2013
  13. ^ Fontaine, Paul (2014-01-31). "Most Icelanders Want Vote On Finishing EU Talks". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  14. ^ Robert, Zoë (2014-02-25). "Three Thousand Protest outside Parliament". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  15. ^ Robert, Zoë (2014-02-24). "Icelanders Protest Government’s Plans to Stop EU Talks". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  16. ^ Milne, Richard (2014-02-27). "Thousands demand EU referendum in Iceland". Financial Times. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  17. ^ Robert, Zoë (2014-02-28). "Eighty-Two Percent Want EU Referendum". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  18. ^ SVALA ARNARSDÓTTIR, EYGLÓ (2015-01-20). "Pro-EU Rally Underway in Iceland". Iceland Review. Retrieved 2015-02-19.