Iceland is dropping its bid to become a member of the European Union, the country announced Thursday, annulling the application that was first submitted in 2009. The center-right government had pledged to do so when it came to power in 2013.
“The government does not intend to resume preparing for EU membership,” Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said in a statement Thursday. He added that he told Latvia, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, as well as the European Commission of Iceland’s decision.
In late February, about 3,500 people gathered before Iceland’s parliament to protest a bill that would end the country’s bid for membership without a referendum. According to a recent poll, more than two-thirds of the country wanted to hold a national vote over whether Iceland should cancel its application, even though other polls suggested a majority would vote to not join the EU, the EUobserver reported at the time.
After Iceland applied to accede to the EU in July 2009, the European Commission recommended in February 2010 that negotiations proceed. Discussions began in July 2010, but in June 2013, Iceland announced it was suspending them pending national elections. After the elections, a coalition was formed by the Independence Party and Progressives, both of which are viewed as Eurosceptical.
Those in Iceland who were reluctant to join the EU said the country already had free trade agreements with the EU and was part of the Schengen Area, a bloc of 26 European nations that for visa purposes are treated as a single country. With those benefits, they said, Iceland already had many of the perks of membership, the BBC reported.
In January, Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson said the country was planning on withdrawing the application, telling an Icelandic radio station, “Participating in EU talks isn’t really valid anymore.” He cited “changes in the European Union” as well as the fact that the government elected in 2013 differed in its policies from the government that submitted the initial EU bid.