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.