Ingibjörg is right, at least regarding EU strategy

OSLO. (To allow as many Icelanders as possible to read this article, it is published in English instead of German as usual.) I have heard that my interview with former Foreign Minister and former head of the Social democrats, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, has gotten a lot of attention in Iceland and was widely quoted (in Morgunbladid for example here, on the front page of Frettabladid, on and here on the website of the national broadcaster RUV etc.). One of the issues Icelanders are in particular interested in is her comment on the European Union. When in government and even before Gísladóttir was probable one of the politicians who argued most strongly for Iceland joining the EU.

Despite that the European Union also is in a crisis right now, there is only little doubt that an Iceland inside the EU would not have been as much affected by its own crisis as it is now. It is for example quite likely that competition in the banking sector would have been higher if Iceland would have been totally integrated in the European Union when the banks were privatized. A sky high interest rate in Iceland, which banks build their businesses on and which lead to (fatal) massive private lending abroad, would also have been hindered by the Euro. Off course there are arguments against Iceland joining the EU, too.

But Gísladóttirs point is another one. She did not spent that much time of the interview arguing for Iceland EU membership. Instead she stated that she believes that everything would be better than this unclear situation right now. Meaning an Iceland applying for membership, but not really making an effort to gain it. The parliamentarians of the two parties forming the government are not united regarding the European Union. And the prime minister and head of the Pro EU Social Democratic Party, Johanna Sigurdardottir, is not fighting for what her party has wanted for many years: Iceland joining the EU. That means the outside world gets a strange ambivalent signal from the Icelandic government concerning EU membership: we kind of are interested in, but do not do our best to convince the opponents.

The Icelandic government should soon make a choice. Either it should seriously try to convince the electorate of the importance of joining the EU. Or it should openly admit that this is not an option right now due to too much resistance. Everything is better than the unclear situation right now, in that sense Gísladóttir is surely right. In case the Icelandic government decides to (temporary) stop trying to join the EU this should be communicated to the electorate and the outside world. Letting the EU know that it does not make sense to pursue EU membership now would not close the doors for ever.

When speaking to Gísladóttir I got to hear very interesting views. Her ideas about Iceland´s EU relations should certainly be an eye-opener for her successor as head of the party, todays prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, and the public in general. It was a wise politician saying these words.
Nevertheless, being wise should also mean being self critical. Partly I had the impression Gísladóttir is playing down her role during the time before the crash. But that´s a different story to be followed up later. In any case she is willing to discuss and that is definitely more than most of the other former top-politicians are willing to.


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