Around 3500 people gathered in front of the parliament, downtown Reykjavik, today. People are protesting a new bill put forward by the minister of foreign affairs regarding withdrawing the EU membership application. Tens of thousands of people have also signed internet petitions in this regard.
The bill was scheduled for discussion at 15:00 today, and the protest was set to begin at the same time. The police set a barrier around the parliament, and the crowd hit the barrier constantly, creating a loud noise. People also brought pots and pans, beating them together to create noise. The protest was however peaceful, but noisy.
Marel hf (OMX: MARL) is an Icelandic company that provides equipment, systems and services to the food processing industry. The company offered employees to take the day off to protest. Össur (OMX: OSSRu) is a global company in non-invasive orthopaedics. It develops, manufactures and sells bracing and support products, compression therapy, and prosthetics. The company's headquarters are in Reykjavík, Iceland. The CEO of Össur, Mr. Jon Sigurdsson, said that he was shocked when he heard what the government intended to do. "These are extremely bad news for us and actually for everybody that are in international business and run a company in Iceland" said Mr. Sigurdsson.
People protested that the bill would be discussed today, and Einar K. Gudfinsson, the speaker of parliament, met the request and removed the bill from the agenda.
The two parties forming the coalition government promised that they would have a referendum early this term, regarding whether to continue the EU membership negotiations or not. A large majority of Icelanders want to vote on this matter. The government does not want to join the union and it seems like the government is afraid that the nation would vote against their will. Many say that the government is undermining democracy by withdrawing the application without having the referendum that was promised. It looks like the government does not trust the majority of voters.
The protest will continue tomorrow. The protest will begin at 17:00 in front of the parliament, February 25th 2014.