A week in politics is a long time

Regard on the enlargement from Iceland

[…All political improvements in the Nineties due to the EU…]

What do you think on the European Union?
Árni Björn Ómarsso: I am in favour of Iceland participating in the EU. All the changes that have been in Icelandic society for the last twenty years are consequences of the EES agrement. All political improvements in the last tventy years, or since the beginning of the Nineties are due to the EU, not because the government here is trying to make changes. We are fulfilling most of the standards of EU policies or at least with about 70 – 80%.

Have there been any positive changes in the countries that are full participants of the EU?
I think there have been positive changes in all Europe.

[…The Enlargement: Positive for those who are in…]

Then the enlargement is really a good thing?
The enlargment is most positive for the countries that have now been accepted to the EU. The EU is really a social battery. Old Europe, like president Bush once called it, has taken on a huge program in improve the standard of life in Eastern Europe. It is a great deal and expensive for the countries that are now participants of EU. Even though there is some economic profit, the economy in Eastern Europe is very different from the economy in Western Europe.

[…Iceland affected less…]

Will there be great changes – also affecting Iceland?
Well, at the beginning, it will not affect us at all. Not even if we were full participants in the EU. Most countries made precautions before the enlargement that are valid to the year 2006, about for example free floating workmanship.

[…The EU less intereste in Island, Norway and Lichtenstein…]

Does it affects us that we are only members of EFTA not EU?
I think the biggest problem for us concerning the enlargement is that now the EU interest is in the East, whereas the EFTA agreement is being put aside. The EU is not as interested in the EFTA as the participating countries, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, would like it to be. The EU for the moment holds the position that there will make no further changes to the EFTA agreement. It would be really difficult to try to get some chances from here on. When the discussions where held about the enlargenment then the EU made some demands and the EFTA nations blindly agreed to it. You could say that we are at about 90% in the EU, but we can not vote and we can not make any decisions about laws or regulations concerning EU.

Why do we not get fully involved in the EU?
You have to ask the prime minister about that. ….. It is the fishing industry. The government is afraid of losing control over the resource.

[…The fishing industry as one central issue for Island…]

Then if we participate in the EU we might lose control?
We don’t know because we have no experence with it. The EU exists because of business, industry and service. Everywhere in Europe fishery is a border industry, subsidiery industry like farming here in Iceland. Fishery is only a small part of the economic system in the EU. I mean the EU would probably take consideration of how small the economy in Iceland is and how dependent we are on fishery and might be able to direct it with profit. And we must not forget that Iceland is expanding in the fishing industry.

So that we are not taking such a big risk applying for EU ?
There have never been written any contract goals by the government and when we do not apply or talk to the EU then we do not know what they can offer us. But now because of the current enlargement of EU we also do not know when EU is ready to take in more nations. It would be a benefit for the EU if Iceland and Norway would join in together. It would be more profitable for Iceland to bargain with Norway than alone. We are just a peewee, not bigger than a suburb of Copenhagen. I think the agreement position of Iceland has become more delicate after the enlargenment, now there are so many nations and they all have to agree our involvement. Now all ten nations can make their own claims. Evidently it is harder to get it now than it used to be.

How will the future look like?
If we look to the future, like 2012, then you might have a really strong Europe.

And we of course will in the end paricipate in the EU?
You can never know, hopefully we will. But a week in politics is a long time.

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