Why Iceland doesn’t want to be a part of the EU: Exploring the reasons behind Iceland’s anti-EU stance

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Are you planning to visit Iceland anytime soon? Then, you must have heard about the country’s reluctance to join the European Union (EU) and wondered – Why is Iceland Anti EU? This post will walk you through Iceland’s complex and nuanced relationship with the EU, to help you understand the various reasons that shape Iceland’s stance towards this supranational organization.

What Is The European Union And How Does It Function?

The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 member states located in Europe, which was formed in the aftermath of World War II to promote economic cooperation and prevent another war on the continent. Its primary objectives are to promote peace, stability, and prosperity to the member states and their citizens.

Each member state has to give up certain powers to the EU institutions in exchange for receiving certain benefits. For instance, the EU controls trade, immigration, competition, and agriculture laws in its member states and subsidies poor member countries.

In return, the member states trade freely with each other, their citizens have the right to live and work in any EU country, and they receive structural funds for development projects.

Iceland’s Tumultuous Relationship With The EU

Iceland, a country with a population of around 364,000 people, is located between Europe and North America. It is not a member of the EU but has a complex and tumultuous relationship with it.

Iceland’s journey with the EU began in 2009 when the country faced its biggest economic crisis after the bank crash. Its currency, the Icelandic Krona, collapsed, and inflation rates skyrocketed. In response, the country applied to join the EU with the hope of securing stability, growth, and access to EU funds and markets.

Iceland’s application to join the EU, however, posed several challenges. One of the primary challenges was Iceland’s fishing industry, which contributes significantly to the country’s economy and employs around 8% of its population.

The Challenges Faced By Iceland In Joining The EU

The EU has a Common Fisheries Policy, which lays down the rules for managing fishing fleets, setting catch quotas, and protecting fish stocks in the EU waters. The policy aims to ensure the sustainability of fishing and the long-term prosperity of the fishing industry.

If Iceland becomes an EU member state, its fishing policy will be controlled by the EU regulations, which might negatively affect the country’s fishing industry. Also, the fishing quotas allocated to Iceland by the EU can be lower than those Iceland currently enjoys, as other EU countries also depend on fishing for their economy. Thus, Iceland’s concern for its fishing industry has become a significant obstacle to its path of joining the EU.

Iceland has undergone several rounds of negotiations with the EU, but the talks have been repeatedly stalled and resumed. In 2013, Iceland’s parliament voted to halt the country’s accession to the EU, citing concerns over the fishing policy and Iceland’s independence, as the country has been successful in surviving outside the EU.

Is Iceland Anti EU?

Iceland’s journey with the EU has been long, complicated, and nuanced. The country has never formally closed the door on its membership to the EU, but it has not resumed the negotiations either.

Thus, Iceland’s stance towards the EU cannot be summarized in a simple binary opposition of pro or anti. Instead, it reflects a complex mix of economic, environmental, political, and cultural factors that shape Iceland’s relationship with the EU.

The Economic Factors

Iceland is prosperous, thanks to its developed economy and high living standards, which are not always found in the EU member states. The country has managed to thrive outside of the EU by participating in the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement and integrating with the common market without being a formal member state. Thus, the economic benefits are one of the primary factors to consider when joining the EU.

The Environmental Factors

Iceland is an eco-friendly country that relies entirely on renewable energy. Joining the EU might affect Iceland’s sovereignty over its natural resources and environmental policies, as the EU imposes stricter environmental laws on its member states.

The Political Factors

Iceland’s political culture is unique and shaped by its history, geography, and economy. The country has a strong democratic tradition and an engaged citizenry that has a direct say in their government’s decisions. Joining the EU might compromise Iceland’s independence and its ability to make decisions democratically.

The Cultural Factors

Iceland has a unique cultural identity, which is deeply rooted in its history, mythology, and landscape. Joining the EU might threaten Iceland’s cultural identity, as the EU imposes a homogenizing effect on its member states.


In conclusion, Iceland’s relationship with the EU is complicated, nuanced, and shaped by several factors that affect its economy, environment, politics, and culture. While Iceland has not completely closed its doors to the EU, its reluctance to join reflects more than its fishing policy concerns. It reflects its unique history, geography, economy, and culture.

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