≡ Menu

Of misinformation, fearmongering and the European Union

As many of you will know, last week our YT travelled to Brussels in order to check out the European Union. It was at the EU’s expense, and as far as I can tell these trips for “stakeholders” happen as a matter of course when a country has applied for membership to the Union.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve done these sorts of trips before, induction-type tours to various government institutions or international bodies, and they usually consist of long, drawn-out PowerPoint presentations, with the presenters droning on until you’d give anything for a pair of toothpicks to hold your eyelids open.

Either that, or you feel you are being so blatantly manipulated that the whole experience turns into one long shuddering ordeal.

Perhaps it was because my expectations were nil that it actually turned out to be a very interesting and enjoyable trip. I expected stuffy bureaucrats in suits yacking at us for the duration of the two days we were there, but instead I found many diverse individuals who were extremely well-informed and committed to their work, and most of whom were more interested in engaging in a dialogue with us than knocking us upside the head with propaganda. [Although to be completely fair there were a one or two occasions when I wished I’d brought those toothpicks with me.]

I have experienced manipulation during a tour of this sort in the past [see my posts about the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Facility, starting here], but I did not experience any of that in Brussels. On the contrary: no one tried to convince us of anything. We were simply introduced to the European Union’s regulations and principles, and it was made clear that Iceland was free to continue with the membership application or withdraw at any time. It was also made clear that Iceland would get no special concessions. If it wanted to join the club, it would have to play by the rules. [Something that no doubt would be a healthy maxim for many of my countrymen and -women.]

A lot of the dialogue concerned the public discourse and fears of the Icelandic people about joining the EU. There is plenty of fear to go around in this country, and that fear is used relentlessly by EU opponents. In particular, those fears centre on fishing [i.e. losing control of the fishing grounds around the island] and agriculture [Icelandic farmers fear the abolishing of all tariffs on agricultural products, which would mean a steady flow of inexpensive – or, shall we say, reasonably priced – agricultural products into the country, which would no doubt put some of them out of business].

Until now, the public discourse about the EU here in Iceland has been characterized by a lot of ineffectual information and/or outright misinformation, in addition to the aforementioned fears and emotional interjections. There is vast polarization between the pro- and anti- camps, and no real middle ground in which to engage in a balanced discussion that is based on facts.

Case in point. One of the main anti-EU cries is this: The moment we join, our waters will be full of Spanish trawlers who will vacuum our fishing grounds. They’ve managed to destroy their own; now they want to come here and do the same with ours.

The fact of the matter is that yes, Iceland will have to adopt the Common Fisheries Policy, which, as it happens, is currently under review. However, fishing quotas for species around Iceland will be allocated on the basis of experience of fishing in those waters, i.e. only those vessels who have fished in the Icelandic jurisdiction for the last ten years or so [read: only Icelandic vessels] will be allocated the quota. According to one of the members of the Icelandic enlargement unit the Spanish are well aware of this and will not even attempt to stake a claim on the Icelandic fishing grounds because they know it will be futile.

The quotas that will be calculated for each species will be largely based on scientific data collected by the Marine Institute of Iceland, just as it is today. The only thing that will change is that the quota allocation will be issued in Brussels, rather than in Iceland, i.e. a Brussels bureaucrat will sign on the dotted line. This is the basis of one of the frequent emotional arguments, namely that Iceland will be losing its independence to Brussels.

I could write a lot more about my EU encounter, but I think the main thing that emerged from this trip for me was that the EU is not some terrifying soulless monster just hovering and waiting to swallow up poor little defenseless Iceland. What I saw was an assembly of very diverse people who are committed to working together for the greater good of the whole. Don’t get me wrong: I harbour no illusions that the EU as an institution is perfect and that corruption and mismanagement and all the rest of it don’t exist there. What I did see, however, is an institution that has been set up according to an ideal and guided by the principles of democracy, where myriad regulations and guidelines are in place to attempt to ensure that corruption, nepotism, cronyism and other nasties don’t take root.

In other words, a system of government that is a lot more evolved than what we have seen here in Iceland in previous decades.

Comments

comments

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elaine Kirk June 1, 2010, 11:03 pm

    You are concentrating on the financial side but your farmers (all your people) have more to loose than a monopoly of your own country’s market . The union dictate the lives of member states citizens to an unacceptable level, families no longer raise children the states dictate along EU lines how the children are educated , play etc etc. I read a blog post by one of your children who expressed astonishment at hearing that schools in Europe have railings around them, I watch the Blue Lagoon webcam and wonder if your citizens realise that under Europe that webcam would not be allowed, we are not allowed to photograph our own children swimming!! there are schools that parents are not allowed to enter unless they have clearance from the criminal records office, records are kept on your children and 12yr olds can be given birth control without the parents knowledge.
    Join Europe and it won’t just be your financial freedoms you will loose.

  • Tom Harper June 1, 2010, 11:18 pm

    Alda, thanks for the post! I have been looking forward to myself =) I have found the ideals of the EU to be alluring, but watched their implementation with a dose of skepticism. It is also hard, even here in the UK, to separate fact from fiction about the EU and its policies.

    I think the concerns over Iceland’s fisheries policies are at least somewhat valid. The situation you describe may be true if Iceland joins the EU today, but what about 20 or 50 years down the line? Iceland has fought rather hard for its current fishing stake, and I think wanting to safeguard it for the future is reasonable.

    That being said, it seems easy to induce hysteria in a country about the EU taking over and controlling countries by issue decrees from Brussels. I hope we can see more updates about this as things progress, as you are my most trusted Icelandic news source =)

  • jo6pac June 1, 2010, 11:34 pm

    In other words, a system of government that is a lot more evolved than what we have seen here in Iceland in previous decades.

    Yes this might be true but the EU is having it’s own problems debt that is being played out right now. I think it would be in the best interest of Iceland citizens to take pass on this and watch how the EU solves their own problems. Or start the process because it does take yrs and then sit and wait for them to resolve the issues and how do they resolve the issues, on the back of it’s citizens.

  • sylvia hikins June 1, 2010, 11:35 pm

    Having managed a trans-national EU project within the past ten years, I am convinced that no-one in the EU has lost their national identity (this was an argument put out by the anti-EU contingent here that we would lose our British ‘identity’). Complete rubbish. In Germany I was dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn to be in meetings and was brain dead by 4pm; in Greece I ambled into ministerial breakfasts at 12 noon ; in Ireland powerpoints were replaced with flip charts and bycycles; in Italy everyone was gorgeously dressed and immaculately groomed- I could go on. Be brave Iceland- come and join Europe. You don’t have to adopt the Euro. And absolutely nothing will stop you staying fiercely proud Icelanders. Beware of those with rigid political agendas. Beware of those with hidden agendas. And remember that Greece, Spain and the UK are in a financial mess because it was their own Governments along with dodgy business practices and not the EU, that created the economic mayhem.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Mike June 2, 2010, 1:15 am

    I grew up in a fishing community in the UK which has spent the last twenty years complaining about the Spanish destroying the catches. What they forget is that the local fishing boats had done a pretty effective job of destroying our own stocks – which is why they spent quite so much time hoovering up everything just off Iceland’s beaches.

    And then, the hypocrites, as soon as Spain joined the EU, British boat owners saw a quick profit and sold their licences to Spanish companies allowing Spanish boats to fish in UK waters.

    I quite agree with Sylvia, the EU has been a success and no one has lost their identity. I just wish the UK was a more enthusiastic member of the project and actually got involved with the process of building the Union rather than sitting their moping about long-lost imperial glories and harking back to a war the rest of the World has moved on from.

    Mike.

  • Alexander E. June 2, 2010, 2:41 am

    Alda, how old are you? I mean I haven’t seen such … well… optimism since high school when the world is bright and future is even brighter :)))) No offense – I’m really surprised.

    So these diverse people committed to working together for the greater good of the whole explained to you about fishing business, right? Have you asked them WHAT they really knew about the matter outside their EU books?
    Have you met with “diverse and committed” herbalaif folks? 😉

    So you hope that that myriad regulations and guidelines are in place to attempt to ensure that corruption, nepotism, cronyism and other nasties don’t take root? Are you serious?
    I’m asking because I can compare the effect of myriad regulations and Icelandic nepotism (I skip corruption, cronyism and other nasties as really insignificant from global prospective). And I found – local nepotism is hell much better than even a hundred regulations (I’m horrified to face myriads of them). At least I know who is behind the deal. And believe me – nepotism system won’t be destroyed by regulations. At least I don’t remember such examples in history.
    But OK – these are personal opinions (and you admitted that brainwashing was successful…he-he).

    The question is really simple – WHAT will Iceland get from EU membership it doesn’t have now?

  • joseph June 2, 2010, 3:28 am

    “What I did see, however, is an institution that has been set up according to an ideal and guided by the principles of democracy”.

    Most of the current EU member states did not allow their citizens to vote on membership, but rather decreed it upon them in a top-down manner. Whatever the benefits of membership may be, if just getting into the EU club isn’t handled in even the semblance of a democratic manner then it seems straightaway we’re off to a bad start, democracy wise.

    Granted, responsibility for joining the EU falls solely on the shoulders of each member state, not the EU itself. So, put that aside.

    Still, when you join the EU you’ll trade away some national sovereignty for short term practical benefits. If you’re comfortable with an unelected, entirely appointed, panel in Brussels deciding Iceland’s fiscal, immigration, employment policies, etc. then the EU may be the ticket to Iceland’s future. Hopefully it will work out well. But it certainly won’t be democracy.

    As to the fishing quotas, “The only thing that will change is that the quota allocation will be issued in Brussels, rather than in Iceland”

    That’s not the only thing that will change.

  • Nick June 2, 2010, 4:20 am

    And don’t forget that the EU has largely prevented the various tribes of Europe from murdering each other over the last 65 years.

    A small point I know but one that should be born in mind when we are discussing web cams at swimming pools and quotas of fish.

  • Joerg June 2, 2010, 8:37 am

    I am always baffled about the absurdity of the arguments, which are put forward against the EU. It seems to be a playground for conspiracy theorists of all kinds in cooperation with special interest groups.

    The EU has a huge image problem, not only in Iceland. It is often perceived as an aloof, soulless bureaucratic machine with an inscrutable process of decision making, lacking democratic legitimation and dumping tax payers money into some shady corners of the economy. Not everything is completely wrong about this picture but it is a very one-sided approach. And even though national politicians should know better, their support of the idea of the EU is often only half-hearted or they even utilize those resentments for their own purpose. Whenever unpopular decision are being made, they are very eager to put the blame on the EU, while they pocket all the good for themselves. The fact that the EU is often abused to get rid of over-the-hill politicians does not support its reputation. And corruption is certainly a problem but I don’t think, the EU is more corrupt than its member states.

    The founders of the EU had pushed the EU-project based on the experience of two devastating wars in the last century in Europe. I suppose, some of the contemporary career politicians are lacking any experience at all.

    There might be a fundamental difference between Germany and Iceland. Icelanders might consider it viable to watch the dealings in Europe from the sidelines (I don’t think so) – without being part of it and without a voice of their own. But living in Germany means, you are surrounded by other countries and there is no way to get around this. So, the alternative here is not a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the EU but ‘How’ this union works.

  • goupil June 2, 2010, 9:21 am

    Elinor Orstrom latest Nobel price of economy (if there is such thing)
    argues that local people are more able to manage the common goods.
    The free exchange zone of the european union favors big concerns (entreprises, conglomerates, shaebols,) There is an advantage in mass production and international competitiveness but there are disadvantages in concentration of profit, lack of competition, and manipulation of the political body (worse than a local bribery scandal)
    On the ecological front just look at the way scientific evidence as been disregarded as far as fish stocks are concerned; or why Barroso as managed to ram down european throats GMOs nobody want.
    Regards
    Christian

  • Rachael June 2, 2010, 9:47 am

    @Elaine:
    where on earth did you get thatfrom? It is simply not true. Family law and child protection law is domestic (i.e. each country sets its own); none of the things you cite are based on EU law. Education is designed nationally (although there is increasing attempts at harmonization at university level). Just think about the different starting age for schools; radically different laws on divorce and marital property, child custody and abortion. It’s nothing to do with the EU that a local council in England doesn’t let you take photos of your kids at the swimming pool.

    Don’t assume everything unpopular done by your home government is coming from the EU; usually it is domestic, but they blame the EU when they realise how unpopular their policies are.

    I’m not particularly pro or anti EU; but it doesn’t help the debate to fill it up with complete myths.

  • goupil June 2, 2010, 10:14 am

    Sorry I forgot a post scriptum.
    Small is beautiful ;))
    I live close to Nice and Monaco. It is supposed to be an other Niceland,
    but I wonder why Monaco doesn’t want to be part of the european union. Maybe Monaco like to be a bolt hole for some.
    Iceland seems like a nice bolt hole for others, more so if the wikileak initiative is implemented.
    Regards Christian

  • Michael Schulz June 2, 2010, 10:50 am

    Yes, there is a lot of purposeful mis-information spread in Iceland. Hard to make out the sources. Not hard to imagine that those corrupted elites who want to be unperturbed in their (criminal/un-ethical/immoral/etc) undoings would have an interest. Haven’t they largely replaced independence of media, academia, etc. by control ?

    The EU is in all probability the most progressive human development project on the globe. In histsoric time dimensions its still in its infancy and as work in progress obviously plagued by struggles.

    The EU vision is worth engageing. One might be inspired by – for example – a speech Joschka Fischer (fr. MoFA Germany) gave at the Berlin Humboldt University in May 2000 is certainly inspiring in this regard.

    Just wish the Iceland government would get their act together and lead a conscious, informed public discourse on this very issue, including on the dark Icelandic downsides.
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 2, 2010, 12:12 pm

    EU yes is very good, we live for many years ruled by UK plc people very poor, Join EU, people very rich until everything go pop recently like your happiest country in the world, but still have plenty of tatties to eat (I own mac mini and iphone I very rich).Euro very good pretty money, people in UKplc no like Euro that’s why I like,they annoyed when Ireland vote Ja to the Lisbon Treaty.(Daily Mail,Telegraph,Sun etc etc they very bad people)
    EU very good national anthem Ode To Joy, Beethoven genius I like, he cool rocking all over the world dude, EU ist wunderbar.

  • goupil June 2, 2010, 12:33 pm

    Just found http://immi.is/ site for the media initiative.
    The post about europe risk being longwinded and tedious.
    In France we battled for years with Maastrich and the constitution and we got to battle with an administrative european subdivision.
    I am dreading to have to dig in the pages of the constitution to show you some of the horrors of it.
    After Maastrich I had to battle, to no avail, so the french legislation on the quality of bathing waters would not be reduced to a worse common denominator by european legislation.
    And I am not paid by the europeans institutions contrary to some who se opinion has been swayed.
    I vote on the left and for the greens Many could be said of the influence of europe on such party
    Regards

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 2, 2010, 12:58 pm

    @Alda yes have read your post about Sellafield, the gov here supplied us with iodine tablets or something to stop that pesky chernobyl cough/thyroid cancer should that place blow, look on the bright side at least you dont live on the coast of Louisana where the biggest oil spill in nited states history is underway,except with Exxon Valdez it was a set sum of zillions of gallons,whereas with this one it will just keep going till the pressure drops and all the kings horses and men seem to be well having difficulties.

  • Elaine Kirk June 2, 2010, 1:07 pm

    @Rachael
    I will come to safeguarding next , first education you said ”Education is designed nationally (although there is increasing attempts at harmonization at university level) Just think about the different starting age for schools. ”
    European policy states
    ”The benchmarks for 2010 are:
    at least 95% of children between the age of four and the age for starting compulsory primary education should participate in early childhood education;”
    ”European reference tools
    European co-operation in education has led to the development of a number of EU reference tools to help learners and support national reforms.
    Recommendations and common principles have been developed in the areas of key competences for learners,”
    ”3. European cooperation in education and training for the
    period up to 2020 should be established in the context of
    a strategic framework spanning education and training
    systems as a whole in a lifelong learning perspective.
    Indeed, lifelong learning should be regarded as a fundamental
    principle underpinning the entire framework, which
    is designed to cover learning in all contexts — whether
    formal, non-formal or informal — and at all levels: from
    early childhood education and schools through to higher
    education, vocational education and training and adult
    learning.”
    All quotes from EU policy documents . Sounds pretty ‘inclusive’ to me.

  • Easy June 2, 2010, 1:12 pm

    There are 3 kinds of members in the EU: the ELITE (France, Germany, Belgum, Holand, UK), The WORKING class, (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Etc.) The SLAVES(Latvia, Estonia, Rumania, Lithuania, etc.), outside the elite ask, or check who are they doing, Now it all depends in what group Iceland falls in, now, DO WE really think Iceland well be a member of the ELITE??? Totall agree with Elaine and Alexander, but then again Iceland has no choice but to join EU. Now we here in Iceland have a very unique chance of having an insight first hand, we have lots of Latvians, and Lithuanians here, many of them very well informed educated people, ask them about EU benefits, just ask them. Did you know that EU has even prohibited them to produce milk, and now they have to import it from Poland, almost 3 timas more expencive, and the same with many other agriculural products. Just an example.

  • Elaine Kirk June 2, 2010, 1:25 pm

    @Rachael you said of child protection -” Family law and child protection law is domestic (i.e. each country sets its own); none of the things you cite are based on EU law.”
    Too much to put on here Rachael but we can start with the 18 pieces of European child protection legislation here
    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/dossier/dossier_30.htm
    which is followed by 45 other references to legislation and proposed legislation!!
    And I have no hidden agenda , I am not politically active I am a parent who over 31yrs of parenting has seen the ever intrusive european machine erode family life

  • Kris June 2, 2010, 2:50 pm

    I’m with Easy–Icelanders will definitely be in the slave class. The EU is heaven for giant corporations. Bad for little people. Massive regulation favors large corporations with many lawyers. Small businesses can’t compete because of the cost of complying. Also, who writes the regulations? The consortium of small businesses? Hardly.
    EU = FE (fascist Europe) IMO. But that is a global trend…
    Why are people so gooey eyed about the EU. The very first thing they will do is demand austerity measures and ‘liberalization’. That alone should send shudders through people.
    Have people simply given up on self-governance?
    Endless bureaucracy is death by a thousand paper cuts!

  • Joerg June 2, 2010, 3:27 pm

    @Easy: Germany’s annual net contribution to the EU is about 7 billion EUR. This money is provided by the German taxpayers – aka. ‘the slaves’ 😉 . I don’t know your definition of ‘slaves’ and ‘elite’ but it seems to be a slightly biased perception.

    Actually, I don’t mind having to pay as long as this money is well spent and does not end up in the the pockets of a corrupt government or business elite. And I am sure that Iceland would be a receiver of subsidies rather than a net contributor.

    Here is a link providing explanations of a number of EU-myths:

    http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/communication/take_part/myths_en.htm

    Perhaps it is wise, not to believe everything that’s written in the press.

  • The Fred from the forums June 2, 2010, 8:03 pm

    Alexander E asks “The question is really simple – WHAT will Iceland get from EU membership it doesn’t have now?”

    One answer is a stable currency that doesn’t get dangerously overvalued when currency traders want it followed by ruining the lives of debtors when it crashes.

    There is also a downside to the Euro, which many economists have pointed out, but it’s still a partial answer to Alexander E’s question.

  • The Fred from the forums June 2, 2010, 8:06 pm

    Nick writes:
    “And don’t forget that the EU has largely prevented the various tribes of Europe from murdering each other over the last 65 years. ”

    NATO deserves some credit there …

  • Easy June 2, 2010, 10:33 pm

    @Joerg.
    Even slaves have to eat, otherwisse they die and you dont have slaves, isn’t it?.
    Slave works – slave has to eat – EU(ELITE countries) feeds slave – slave can keep on working – ELITE gets money back and more.
    Simple math 2+2=4

  • Sigvaldi Eggertsson June 2, 2010, 10:34 pm

    Joerg, Iceland is still, post crash, one of the richest countries in Europe and will, as far as I know, become a net contributor.

  • Easy June 2, 2010, 10:49 pm

    @The Fred from the forums
    Have you not seen the news? Or do you acctually think the krona is getting “stronger”. The Euro is sinking like the titanic, what kind of stable currency loses almost 25% of its value in 2 weeks??

  • Sebastian June 2, 2010, 11:22 pm

    Iceland is already a member of EU’s internal market (EEA) and the Schengen zone. The step from the current situation to membership is a small one.

    Joerg:
    “And I am sure that Iceland would be a receiver of subsidies rather than a net contributor.”

    Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway provide €357.7 million per year to reduce social and economic disparities within the EU. I really doubt a country with a higher GDP (PPP) per capita than Germany in 2009 would become a receiver of subsidies.

  • Easy June 3, 2010, 12:47 am

    Sigvaldi said:
    “Joerg, Iceland is still, post crash, one of the richest countries in Europe and will, as far as I know, become a net contributor.”

    Sebastian said:
    “I really doubt a country with a higher GDP (PPP) per capita than Germany in 2009 would become a receiver of subsidies.”

    Wow!! This is really sad, to see how people is sitill in denial. And I really mean it when I say it’s sad.
    Denial: Is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead.

    This was published just TODAY!! by our own central bank:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE6511YU20100602
    But we are very rich, even richer than GERMANY!!!

  • bun June 3, 2010, 8:51 am

    @ Sigvaldi and Sebastian

    I’m sorry guys, but you are dead wrong on this one. Joerg is right, Iceland would actually become a receiver of subsidies rather than a net contributor.

    You see, first you have to understand how these subsidies and development funds work. They are not assigned to a country as whole, but to specific regions that are considered to be underdeveloped. For example, in the case of Germany, the city of Hamburg is considered to be one of the industrial engines of the EU, however, the town of Luneburg, located just 1 hour south of Hamburg, in the state of Niedersachsen, is a receiver of development funds since its GDP per capita is below the EU average. Or take for example the case of northern Sweden and Finland. These areas are considered to be underdeveloped in comparison to the EU average, and they are receipients of the exact same development funds that Bulgaria and Romania are entitled to.

    In the case of Iceland, the only area that could be thought to be an industrial engine (or “rich” to make it simple) would be the Greater Reykjavik area. The rest of the country, with maybe a few exceptions, would be eligible to receive development funds from the EU.

    Of course, all these calculations are very complex and I would recommend you to have a strong background in micro/macro economics in order to understand in depth how these funds are allocated. But still, I think reading more into this topic would be highly advisable.

  • Tom Harper June 3, 2010, 11:30 am

    This discussion reveals the exact problems with the current view of the EU in Europe; there is simply too much (mis)information to sift through. On top of that, the EU and their many arms seem rather opaque to a lay person.

    People involve emotion in discussion of the EU far too easily. Perhaps because, at its foundation, the EU is a body whose existence is due to an ideological vision of how some view Europe “should be” or “needs to be”. Questions of ideology are near and dear to the hearts of many. That being said, you do not need to distort the truth about the EU to say that you oppose or support it. Either way, you are entitled to your opinion.

    In a polemic discussion of such opinions, you don’t need to accuse anyone of fascism to make your point (calling the European Union fascist is both highly inappropriate and incorrect), nor make hyperbolic claims of slavery (which is, at best, an oversimplified and ultimately insufficient metaphor and, at worst, fearmongering propaganda designed to evoke total hysteria). There is enough controversy to go around about how the European Union operates without resorting to such underhanded rhetoric.

    For my 2 kr.: I am not of European nationality. I am an American who has come to the UK to study, and hope to settle in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I have lived here for 3 years, and I have seen that Europe, as a whole, is an amazing place. It is full of cultural, linguistic, and social diversity. Though far from perfect, Europe is on the cutting edge of modern, progressive societies that are trying to build a sense of community, tolerance, and taking care of one another.

    I am very wary of the EU. I support a certain amount of unity in Europe and think that recognition of certain “European” ideals is obvious, and that promoting cooperation to realise such ideals is brilliant. I also, however, was born and raised in a country where federalism is taken to a much greater extreme. Many people outside view the US as culturally homogenous, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is ever-growing cultural, social, and political polarisation among the states, and the values of some states are impressed on others by lack of consensus at the federal level preventing progress. Power has been increasingly consolidated in the federal government, which has made for a less efficient and faceless society where the sense of community has been totally lost. I am not exaggerating when I say it would break my heart to see the same happen to Europe.

    I think we can all agree that the recent issue with Greece and the Euro has shown that, at best, there are imperfections in the current economic policies of the EU. It is obvious that, as things stand, the fiscal discipline that was supposed to be followed by Eurozone countries has not been enforced. Some of the first countries to flout the Growth and Stability Pact were its major supporters, France and Germany. They also got away with it with little or no penalties. Given Iceland’s size and unique economy, the rigid regulation that comes along with joining may not be appropriate, and it obvious now more than ever that there is a fair amount of risk in throwing your lot in with other Eurozone members; even if you don’t always rise together, you certainly fall together.

    It is important to separate Eurozone membership from EU membership. Many of the fiscal requirements of joining the EU are actually associated with joining the Eurozone. Will Iceland still be constraining itself if it joins the EU? Yes. There are a mountain of regulations that must be met within the EU. However, let us not forget that Iceland is already a member of the Schengen treaty and the EEA. They have already given up many immigration controls. They are forced to comply with certain regulations that increase their economic openness with the rest of Europe (which, as the HS Orka/Magma Energy debacle has shown, is not always a good thing). I am not a European law expert, but I do think it is important to accept these things as given, and decide what will change, in real terms (not necessarily ideological ones) for Iceland by joining the EU.

    Iceland will definitely get development aid for certain areas (good), but it’s not necessarily decided by the Icelandic government (bad). The fisheries policy in the EU needs reworking, and Iceland needs to do its best to protect its natural resources, both energy and fishing, as it moves forward. Joining the Eurozone requires its own considerations, but it is important to keep in mind there are MANY possible alternatives. Iceland could a) keep its own currency, b) peg its currency to the Euro (á la Denmark), c) dollarise to the Euro, or d) join the Eurozone. There are probably many more alternatives that someone more aware of monetary policy than I am could list. Iceland already works with and has an interdependent relationship with both the EU and its constituent countries. Having a voice and taking part in that vast machine may give Iceland greater influence and consideration. On the other hand, Iceland is a tiny country in terms of population. It could easily incur obligations while its needs are quickly marginalised.

    I guess what I am trying to say with this novel of a comment is that the issue is not clear cut. As someone who is still getting up to date with how the EU works and the experiences of various countries (something I will probably spend the rest of my life doing in my spare time), I think hearing everyone’s side is important. I think using this as a forum to spout inaccurate information or hysterical propaganda is not constructive. If you can’t present your opinion without resorting to name calling or hyperbole, it might be time to re-evaluate 😉

  • tom joseph aka tj3 June 3, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Wow what a bunch of great comments, pro and con about Iceland joining the European Union.

    I think the people who believe that the primary interest of the EU is big business are quite correct.

    It still has its good points and bad. The question is… will it evolve into something more than a big corporate cheese factory and store.

    I have always thought from the start of the EU, that is was modest and devoted to stuff like making cheese come in plastic shrink wrap. This is good but also not enough.

    Trying got avoid grandiose political stuff is nice but it (the EU) is the biggest new government in the world and needs a bit of grandiose dedication to progress, to match that. It may be more now about a nanny state telling ordinary people how to raise their kids and how loud an MP3 player should be, than the needed modern reforms of finance and political advancement…. for the big players who are not controlled .

    Could Iceland influence the EU into progress on any area? I doubt it, so I guess all in all, I would suggest that Iceland would be better off outside the EU.

  • idunn June 3, 2010, 8:39 pm

    The recent experience of Greece has given me pause to reflect on the order or not of the EU, and how well it functions. It now seems, say from the perspective of someone in Germany, that this club is more entwined than some might think, and if one in danger of sinking they all in peril.

    Similar to these 50 United States of America, only for all the regional variances in practice and law this combination works largely as a unified whole. Perhaps it is better to operate, as the EU does, as autonomous countries in league. In either case it is clear that if benefits derived in numbers and common understandings, then also one to the same degree adopts the cares and problems of one’s neighbors.

    I’d be in the camp suspecting Spain of vacuuming up all the fish. If they are not allowed to do so immediately, then good, and I stand corrected. But the past history of the EU in regard its fisheries might give one pause. This is an example to join and adopt?

    Per the farmers, Iceland might benefit by being less monopolistic; acceptance of the broader world could infuse the fresh blood of new practices, lower prices, maybe even better produce. Besides, the EU seems to have its house in order, somewhat, with agriculture. But also various issues, such as the French wishing to preserve their way of life. Far more to such things, I’m sure, than I’m apprised of. But if some Icelandic farmers might not be able to compete, to what extent could any of them, or in a manner anyone would like? Then also the possibility that in time the EU may bow to the pressure of American corporate agriculture and adopt some of its seriously questionable practices, such as GM seeds, vast overuse of pesticides, fertilizer, etc. Who wants to be part of that?

    With many a question I’d be in no position to say yeah or nay. But in contemplating joining someone else’s club not only the question if they will have you, but in time what they might become and if one wants anything to do with that?

  • Joerg June 4, 2010, 8:46 am

    Just one more remark on this issue.

    There are definitely many pros and cons on the matter of Iceland’s proposed EU membership. As Iceland is already member of the EEA and other international organisations and committed to a number of international regulations, I don’t quite see the advantage of being bound to a legislatory framework without having the proper formal voting rights. From an outsider’s point of view I think that Iceland could contribute much to the EU due to its peaceful and democratic traditions. But I can also understand fears to loose influence about the country’s own matters due to the tininess of it’s population.

    I think, in order to come to an informed decision, it is crucial to stick to the facts and refrain from hysteria, insinuation of brainwash and crude conspiracy theories. I hope, there will be a civilized debate.

    And I would suggest to separate the two issues, EU – and Eurozone membership. Nobody knows, how the Euro is going to develop, anyway.