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Björk et al launch petition to overturn Magma sale

So, as per my last post, I headed down to the Nordic House today where Björk, Jón Þórisson and Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir — the three people behind the formal appeal to Iceland’s parliament that I wrote about here — had called a press conference.

I got there at the last minute, and the lobby was full of people who had clearly come down hoping to catch a glimpse of Björk — seemingly most of them foreigners. However, there were bouncers at the door to the auditorium who made sure that only press folk were admitted … along with a few blogging minions.

The conference kicked off with Jón Þórisson giving a short address in which he summarized the issues at hand. He also introduced an online petition urging that the Magma sale be overturned and that parliament hold a referendum on the future utilization of Iceland’s resources. The petition is here — however, it seems that you need an Icelandic kennitala [social insurance number] for it to work, so presumably only those who are resident in Iceland are able to sign.

Björk was up next, and in a clear, resounding voice she read out a few questions that she, Jón and Oddný Eir wish to pose. To wit:

In two weeks’ time, Magma Energy Sweden Ab will gain exclusive rights to utilize important natural energy sources in Iceland for the next 65 years. Is this sale of utilization rights in accordance with legislation that stipulates that utilization and ownership of Icelandic natural resources should be in the hands of Icelandic authorities?

Should this sale not undergo a systematic review? Don’t we need a report on our natural resources, similar to the report we had about the banks?

Should the Icelandic nation itself not be permitted to decide whether, and if so, how, it wishes to utilize its resources? Do we need to change laws so the nation can participate in a referendum about its own natural resources?

The International Monetary Fund has recommended that Icelanders provide foreigners with increased access to their natural resources. A letter of intent by the government from April last year suggests that those recommendations will be followed. Are we going to pay for the Icesave debt incurred by the oligarchs with our nature?

Is there not a better chance of getting Iceland back on track, and will this country not be able to pay its debts more easily, if we keep our natural resources under our full control and profit from them ourselves?

There is no clear information available on who are Magma’s shareholders.* Is it natural to close such an important deal without this sort of information?

It is said that the sale to Magma Energy will benefit the Icelandic economy since it constitutes foreign investment. And yet 70% of the sale is financed through a domestically-provided bullet loan, with a guarantee in the shares themselves. How does that compute?

Is there anything preventing Magma from removing all its profits from Iceland?

Is there anything to guarantee that this sale will create jobs in Iceland?

How will we profit from this sale? Will the profits possibly go to intermediaries that the Icelandic public, and even to the government, do not know about?

How will further heavy industry plans line up with international commitments to reduce carbon emissions? Are Icelanders not planning to help combat global warming?

Water is likely to be the world’s most precious resource in the future. Will the Magma case set a precedent? Will we lose more resources in this way?

Will our grandchildren be happy with our responses now? Will they be satisfied with the deals we have made and the sale of our natural resources?

The press conference closed with Björk performing three songs, the first of which was an Icelandic national song entitled Hjá lygnri móðu — very wistful and moving.

Here’s a short video of Björk reading some of the questions above.

* Rumours abound that some of the Icelandic oligarchs who originally went after HS Orka and managed to privatize a share of it are now shareholders in Magma. I’m not selling that any dearer than I bought it, though.**

** Icelandic idiom.

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  • Easy July 20, 2010, 2:11 am

    Thanx for spreading this. Was there any local press? how come there is nothing about this in the media(local)? I have looked and lookd and there is nothing(about this press conference and petition). Unless I’m going blind. Let’s hope bloggers can spread the word because looks like the main stream media is not very “interested” in this.

  • Easy July 20, 2010, 2:16 am

    Well, I found something in Eyan now.

  • R.L.Dogh July 20, 2010, 5:58 am

    Today the energy, tomorrow the water:
    “Bolivia’s former oligarchs sold the country’s water rights to foreign interests. They even passed legislation prohibiting people to collect rainwater, sick as that may be. Evo Morales was part of a popular uprising that threw out these corporate thieves and gave people back their water. The citizens of a nation should never have to purchase WATER from a corporation who stole it in the first place.”
    The sale was engineered by the IMF, to be a way for Bolivia to repay the debts the IMF drew it into. Johanna in bed with the IMF? Chasing the “cats” out of the Althingi bed to make her herding Iceland into the IMF’s pen easier?

  • andy July 20, 2010, 9:59 am

    I may be wrong, but I think
    1- If Bjork et al are not happy with the deal, which appears legal, then buy the company back (I am sure some one can scrape together $120m US for 50% – that includes the debt).
    2- The original c9ommercial deal appears to make little financial sense beyond transferring the assets into a commercial entity which is controlled by Magma.

    Wonder who gets the $26M in common equity?

  • Christian Rebhan July 20, 2010, 12:08 pm

    Sæl Alda,

    Það er eitt sem ég skil ekki: Af hverju leyfið þið erlendar fjárfestingar í orku í 65 ár en reynið hins vegar allt sem þið getið til að koma í veg fyrir erlendar fjárfestingar í sjávarútvegi?

  • SOe July 20, 2010, 12:49 pm

    thanks for sharing this information and the link to the petition.

  • Easy July 20, 2010, 1:01 pm

    I agree with R.L.Dogh “Today the energy, tomorrow the water”.
    And then the health care system, and then the education system and everything will go, If this Magama issue is allowed, forget about it, everything is gone, so I gues it depends on people if they allow this. As we have heard before so many times, Iceland was indebted by design and IMF is here to make sure creditors get their pice of the country, and off course the traitors that helped them will get reguarded allowing them to have some shares in the companies that will buy everything.
    “some of the Icelandic oligarchs who originally went after HS Orka and managed to privatize a share of it are now shareholders in Magma” This is their way to say thanks.

  • JimJones July 20, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Question re; the petition. Is it only for Icelanders? The reason I ask is that it seems to want a kennitala as a required field which non-Icelanders would not have.

  • alda July 20, 2010, 2:48 pm

    JimJones — did you read the post?

  • JimJones July 20, 2010, 2:57 pm

    @Alda

    I did but obviously not closely enough. My apologies.

  • alda July 20, 2010, 3:03 pm

    You’re forgiven. 😉

  • JimJones July 20, 2010, 3:09 pm

    @Alda

    TY much.

    This does bring up a follow up question, though. Is there anything non-Icelanders can do or is this pretty much an Icelander only situation? For example, would a Facebook group in support be of any interest?

  • alda July 20, 2010, 3:30 pm

    I’m sure it would. I found this:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=129027627107466&ref=search

    Which addresses a similar issue, i.e. is not only to do with the sale of HS Orka.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland July 20, 2010, 3:36 pm

    Has the Bjork effect taken hold ?

    Talks to begin on shorter rental for Magma, outrageous if the whole agreement is null and voided due to popular protest, I suppose your rulers are well tired now what with the pots and pans thing, then the red flare torch procession outside the prezzies home, they might agree to anything by this stage just to keep you quiet, they could even agree to drop charges against the Reykjavik 9 for instance. 🙂

    http://mbl.is./mm/frettir/innlent/2010/07/20/vidraedur_um_styttri_leigutima_ad_hefjast/

    (For all you out there in cyberspace who are not fluent in Icelandic ie 99.9999999999999999999% of the human race use google translate for the link)

    Yes you have them on the run comrade citizens keep the red flag flying there, if things keep up as they are you might even end up with a transparent,corruption free social democracy and that would just not do would it boys and girls ha ha ha.

  • snowball July 20, 2010, 6:33 pm

    ross beaty with a brilliant move. he is offering bjoerk a 25% stake in magma.

    http://www.grapevine.is/News/ReadArticle/Ross-Beatys-Got-a-Proposal-for-Bjork

    it is a great opportunity for bjoerk to show the responsibility she is actually demanding from the icelandic government.

  • torsten July 20, 2010, 8:54 pm

    @ snowball

    Björks argument is – as I understand it – against privatizing nature (in a very obscure and intransparent way moreover) as a means to overcome economic problems and not about being or not being one of the stakeholders.

    So here is Björk’s answer to Ross Beaty’s offer.

  • Michael Lewis July 21, 2010, 3:51 pm

    I read about this deal: amazing – Magma aren’t actually paying for it themselves – they are borrowing the money: from who ? – Erm… The Icelandic government of course ! Iceland is loaning Magma money to buy an asset for ‘peppercorn rent’.

    Probably not what voters for Johanna were hoping for when they voted her in…

  • Kris July 21, 2010, 5:29 pm

    Bolivia is a good reference point for Iceland as the IMF begins the pillaging process. Other good reference point are the rest of the countries in SA and Africa. This might be a good time to start penning “The Icelandic Clock, Revisited”
    Good for Bjork. She is not a fraud like Bono. Maybe I should not say that about Bono, who knows, he might throw a debit relief concert for Icelanders. –Buy the whole country and give it to charity, shake hands with the pope. Join forces with Demi Moore to save the world from slavery. Love himself even more.
    Seriously though, this is a pivotal moment and if Magma goes through all is lost. Once large chunks of the economy are owned by multinationals (how many of these deals are pending), you (we) will become ‘indigenous people’ with all the associated loss of rights and freedoms. Did I mention peace keeping troops? Oh but those will not be necessary if you agree with Laxness. ( A little flame-bait to go with your Cappuccino.)
    Kris

  • marcus July 23, 2010, 4:44 pm

    i for one recommend to dissolve The International Monetary Fund since it’s a force for evil.

  • sandy July 25, 2010, 4:31 am

    The “international” in “international monetary fund” is merely an ostensible use of the word. The IMF is grounded on American-led liberal and neo-liberal economic policies which not only permit, but also require economic growth to function outside of philosophical, moral, environmental, and social questions. The questions Bjork and others are positing, are the questions which are not only the important critical questions that all people should be asking in these situations, but are at the same time those questions which fall outside of the realm of the workings and minds of business; they are thus rendered disposable, irrelevant, and unintelligible in the broader discourse.

    Secondly, since its inception, the IMF has proven to be a force of globalization – one of the mechanisms through which de-regulation and privatization are implemented and articulated in structural adjustment strategies throughout many of the ‘developing’ (I use this term jarringly) countries of the world. (Cochabamba, Bolivia was a nearly singular, unique, and remarkable example of a people who would not stand for it and successfully opposed the IMF’s sanctions) The results include, but are not limited to: increased poverty for the people, citizens, and workers of the nations; obliteration and dismantling of important social institutions which keep a population healthy including education and healthcare; adverse and devastating effects on local environments by virtue of increased mass production of goods to be sent worldwide. In short, all of these have historically culminated into an intricately and duplicitous dependence on ‘wealthier’ nations for financial investment and the reinforcement of systemic exploitation. (For a revealing wealth of information, google ‘structural adjustment policies’)

    Lastly, the dialogue and unrest in Iceland over this important moral, environmental, political, and economic issue is a microcosm of the difficulties faced across the globe; they are merely intensified here. The questions Bjork and others are raising are the important questions that, as a global community, we have refused to seriously address, reformulate, or answer. We would rather use our own logic of disavowal by eliciting a ‘not in my backyard’ response. Lets face it, it is poignantly clear, we have put the environment in a near unrecoverable state and attempt adopt weak and insignificant financial band-aids alla , we have allowed ourselves and others around the world to be exploited for corporate profits. We have sidestepped the questions which implicate us all for long enough.

    I think that WE ARE ALL in some way responsible and implicated in these issues in different ways. I stand in solidarity with Icelanders to have the right to decide for themselves the ways in which the country will be shaped in the future.

  • Alain Cognard January 8, 2011, 5:00 pm

    It is a way to do what Icelanders do not want to do (harness energy without care and without real need). We, in Canada, cannot stop the exploitation of bituminous sands which is a scandal, and it is doubtful that you could stop anything when Magma get the control.

    Iceland is a model for us. Please don’t import inethic behavior from abroad and send back Magma.