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Iceland Gives EU the Cold Shoulder

February 26, 2014

Amid the violent conflicts in Ukraine, the not-so-subtle nationalism in Hungary, and the U.K.’s ever-present ambivalence towards the European Union, another country has now chosen to take a seat aboardIceland no EU the popular anti-EU train. Although Iceland had never been very enthusiastic about joining the European community, the proud little insular country finally decided to look past its borders towards the European Union after the grave economic hardships it experienced beginning in 2008. When there was fear of economic collapse, the EU looked like it could serve as a comforting safety net for the insulated nation. However, as Iceland began to recover in the following years with little outside help, the country became less inclined to join the European club.

Iceland’s growing ambivalence towards EU membership took on a more concrete form last week when the National Parliament announced its decision to put a complete stop to accession negotiations—which it did without bothering with a referendum. This lack of regard for its citizens’ opinions on the part of the Icelandic government has prompted significant protests in a nation that is generally not prone to taking to the streets. HowevIceland flager, this is no Ukraine. Most of Iceland’s population is opposed to EU accession, especially since the country’s economy has begun to recover and fears of having to face another recession with no outside help have been allayed. The current protests are not motivated by a yearning to join the European Union, but rather by anger at the Icelandic government for making such an important decision about the country’s future without consulting its citizens. Many of the protesters are in fact opposed to EU accession, but still wish to have a referendum to decide the issue. The protests in Iceland therefore indicate not only the dwindling status of the EU, but also a worrying European trend toward growing democratic deficit.

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