Iceland PM Says He Lacks Support For EU Entry Talks

Iceland's Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson has been trying initiate a national debate on entry into the European Union, but says he lacks political backing at home to start the process. His government, political allies and even his own party don't support his call for a national debate on the topic. Opponents are concerned about loss of independence, fishing rights, and over-regulation. "Iceland is not prepared politically to take such a step," he told Dow Jones Newswires. "It is quite clear this is not on the agenda of the present government."

Nor are there signs that future governments would embrace the project, barring major political shift. Even after Iceland's recent financial turmoil, which might have been less violent inside the euro zone, hasn't changed many minds. Most of Iceland's political community remains unpersuaded that being inside the E.U. and adopting the euro would bring more prosperity and financial security. They say belonging to the European Economic Area, which grants access to E.U. markets, is enough.

"We are not supporting Iceland's participation in the euro zone or the European Union," said Birgir Armannsson, member of parliament for the Independence Party, Asgrimsson's coalition partner and the largest grouping in parliament. "Joining the E.U. would increase regulation in many aspects of society. We support the internal market, but we are not keen on further relationship with the E.U.," he said.

Another obstacle is the touchy issue of ceding fishing rights, a problem even for proponents of E.U. and euro membership. Giving up exclusive rights to its waters is something Iceland isn't prepared to do, say politicians from both sides of the discussion.

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