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The Civic Movement falls from grace

Predictably, the EU membership talks vote has been the issue of the day here in Niceland. Generally I have the sense that people are pleased, although of course there are specific interest groups that are vehemently opposed – most notably those in the fisheries industry, and in agriculture.

I must say, though, that I am pretty damn disappointed in the Civic Movement – the party I voted for in the last elections and which, until now, have been like a breath of fresh air in staid old Althingi. One of their election promises was to support talks with the EU … that Iceland should enter into negotiations without the double referendum [which in my view, and as Bromley pointed out in the comments to the last post, is merely a ploy designed to stall the issue and to throw dust in people’s eyes by those who really do oppose EU membership]. At the last minute – yesterday – three out of four members of the Civic Movement did an about-face and said they would NOT support the proposal for EU talks without a double referendum unless parliament pulled back on the Icesave agreement.


There’s something about these kinds of machinations that I find really distasteful. Not only is it a low form of manipulation, it’s an abuse of the power invested in them by their voters. I did not grant them the power to speak on my behalf in parliament, only to have them use that power in such a guileful way. And – call me naive if you will if you shall if you must, but I did not expect them to break an election promise. I thought they had more integrity – indeed, they piped up at just about every available opportunity to tell us that they did. That they were different. Not like those other parties. But it took them exactly three months to lose it.

And just to drive home my misjudgement, the person from whom I initially expected the least has actually  impressed me the most today. Thráinn Bertelsson, whom I had written off as an ineffectual number within the CM ranks [I confess, mostly for reasons of character … he doesn’t much appeal to me as a person] turns out to be the only one who has held true to his promise and seems to have his integrity intact. In an interview with visir.is today he harshly criticized his fellow party members, saying that their conduct “had a tremendously negative effect on the credibility and image of the Civic Movement.” Asked whether he could then continue to work within the party, he replied that it was not his role to quit – “it was not I who walked away [from the party’s ideals]”.

Anyway, personally I am very relieved that the EU matter is now out of the way and that we can now get on with membership negotiations. Then, when they’re on the table, we can decide in a referendum whether or not we want to join. [They better not reneg on that promise!] And I must say I’m impressed by the new government for getting a move on and checking this matter off their agenda in such an efficient way.

Beautiful. Went out to enjoy it, got home to discover that a small waterfall was pouring from our ceiling. I kid you not! Our upstairs neighbour wasn’t home and we finally tracked her down – she was near Thorlákshöfn, on the south coast, and high-tailed it back home, but it took her about an hour. In the meantime we had to shut off the water in the entire house. Turns out someone had left a hot water tap running in her bathroom [!!]. Her flat is pretty much destroyed, needs new flooring and fixtures, etc. Amazing how fast these things happen. BUT – the weather. It was incredibly sunny and beautiful and warm – the thermometer went up to around 22°C at the pool today. Sunrise at 3.43 am, sunset at 11.22.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Guy July 17, 2009, 1:31 am

    Thanks for the update. Good to know that at least the weather is good.

  • Carl Mosconi July 17, 2009, 7:46 am

    “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

    Ronald Reagan

  • Ljósmynd DE July 17, 2009, 8:24 am

    Unfortunately, all prejudices against populists in politics seem to come true again in this case. It is pretty sad to see the CM loose their credibility so fast.

    I would expect, that all those interest groups, which are currently against EU membership, will be in favour of it as soon as they learn how to access the abundant EU funds for subsidies of agriculture and fisheries. It is impressing, how much money is dumped in this sector.

  • Lee July 17, 2009, 9:01 am

    Official Transcript of Civic Movement’s Pre-Vote Meeting

    First MP:
    Round about the cauldron go;
    In the poison’d entrails throw.
    Toad, that under cold stone
    Days and nights has thirty-one
    Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

    Second MP:
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the cauldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

    Third MP:
    Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
    Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
    Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
    Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
    Liver of blaspheming Jew,
    Gall of goat, and slips of yew
    Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
    Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
    Finger of birth-strangled babe
    Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
    Make the gruel thick and slab.
    Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
    For the ingredients of our cauldron.

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

  • ReallyEvilCanine July 17, 2009, 10:18 am

    I keep seeing headlines claiming “Iceland votes to join EU” when it’s only a matter of Iceland voting to consider joining the EU, or am I missing something? They still talk too fast for me on the Tíufréttir.

    I expect after the 500+ years leading up to 1944 Iceland would be rather wary of even considering yet another treaty which places any of its power in foreign hands. I should think “Better to take the hit, fail all banks and retain sovereignty” than “Once again, into the abyss”, though some of my sources are your more nationalist and independence-minded countrymen.

  • pool July 17, 2009, 12:20 pm

    Agreed, the disappointment in the CM is tremendous. Must say that I, too, expected so much more from them.

    As for joining another treaty, Iceland has been a part of NATO the last 60 years. Some, a Finn or a Swede for example, might think that is a bigger threat to sovereignty than the EU.

  • Frank Lynch July 17, 2009, 12:25 pm


    Keep up the good work.

    Frank Lynch.

  • Norm Valz July 17, 2009, 2:01 pm

    I have to admit, if I were Icelandic, I would be very leary of joining the EU. Sure, there are a lot of subsidies, but they always could with strings attached and a serious loss of freedom. Aren’t 30 some % of Iceland’s exports related to fishing? The EU will have something to say about that. I think this whole financial crisis was created by faceless, nameless, powers to be hidden in the recesses of the political and financial establishments. The bureaucracy in Brussels is a terrific environment where such powers can thrive. It is a thoroughly opaque place.

  • RK in Los Angeles July 17, 2009, 2:03 pm

    I could not agree with you more Alda. That whole move just stank but Þráinn (who was originally probably my biggest reason for not supporting the CM which almost would have gotten my vote if it weren’t for him), came through!

    That said I have to express how nice it felt yesterday to finally hear some GOOD news from back home! More of that please!

  • Andri July 17, 2009, 2:24 pm

    Dear Alda,

    Where can I read the election promise you talk about. I’m not convinced it exists. I think its even more sad how people are willing to give up on the Movement because of this one issue. After all, the CM was no EU party, far from it.

  • Andri July 17, 2009, 2:42 pm

    Here is a quote from Birgitta Jónsdóttir on this issue written only a few days ago:

    “The Citizen Movement does not have anything on EU in its mission statement. Some candidates are for and some against joining the eurozone but there was no campaign promise about joining. Many of us have said to be for talks with the EU, me included.”


  • alda July 17, 2009, 3:01 pm

    Thank you for your input, everyone!

    Lee – lol!!

    REC – I keep seeing headlines claiming “Iceland votes to join EU” when it’s only a matter of Iceland voting to consider joining the EU, or am I missing something? — no, you’re not missing anything. Those headlines are wrong.

    Andri – I’m basing this on the interview with Þráinn on the vísir, website, the one I linked to. To wit: Spurður hvort Borgarahreyfingin hafi í reynd lofað því að tryggja brautargengi ESB í kosningabaráttunni fullyrði Þráinn að svo hafi verið.
    I, too, was under the impression that the CM supported negotiations with the EU. I can’t give you a better source then the above, but refer to the many electoral meetings held before the election. If I’m not mistaken (I don’t think I am) they repeatedly stated that they wanted to see what kind of deal they would get from the EU and that they were not opposed to EU talks. That was, incidentally, one of the main reasons I voted for them.

  • The Chosan One July 17, 2009, 3:13 pm

    Read another article about this issue taken from an insider within the movement.

  • Bromley86 July 17, 2009, 3:32 pm

    Andri. I wasn’t sure if it lost something in the translation, but nothing Birgitta said in your quote is compatible with a national referendum on even talking to the EU.

    I’m not sure how the CM is structured, and therefore how relevent this is, but I saw the following on IceNews which backs up what Alda remembers:

    Herbert Sveinbjornsson, chairman of the Citizen’s Movement Party (Borgarahreyfingin) says that it is clear as daylight that if 3 out of 4 Members of Parliament from the Citizen’s Movement reject the vote to join the European Union then they’re betraying the voters. The Citizen’s Movement Party during the elections stated that if EU membership would be discussed and applied for, then no decision or vote should be made before negotiations. Only after the negotiations and when the nation can see the benefits and losses of EU membership, then the nation’s citizens and people should vote on the issue, and not the parliament. “If they proceed with this vote, then in my eyes, they are definitely going back on their word,” Herbert says.


  • Gwrhyr July 17, 2009, 9:10 pm

    Well I’m surprised any Icelander would think the EU would solve any Icelandic problems… membership of the EU costs a lot. Those agricultural subsidies don’t come from nowhere, and in addition to paying for those, the Icelandic taxpayer would also be paying for agricultural subsidies for farmers (read: agricultural companies) as far afield as French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Bulgaria. That on top of paying off the bank collapse debts. Seems a high price to pay just to have everyone like you, which is really what the EU debate is all about. Iceland doesn’t want to be seen as a renegade or a freak to Europe. So Icelandic citizens that would never vote for their corrupt Independence Party ever again are joining forces to vote to join an institution run by the equivalent corrupt European counterparts of Iceland’s Independence Party, because at least if the corruption is happening on the continent it will feel far enough away for people back home to go back to feeling safe and sound.

    It’s digusting how politics always seems to be about choosing the less-distasteful route… go back to the corrupt IP, drop the debt, and be considered a renengade freak by Europe, or lose your independence to similar thugs on the continent taking advantage of a wounded victim of its own financial policies. I guess EU membership and normality are much better than letting the IP get anywhere close to poewr any time soon… but you’re all kidding yourselves if you think it’s actually a good thing to outsource your corruption to a place where you can’t monitor it, bring it to justice, or hold referendums on it.

  • alda July 17, 2009, 9:22 pm

    Seems a high price to pay just to have everyone like you, which is really what the EU debate is all about.. — has to be the most facile statement of the year!

    Believe me, Gwyhr, Iceland’s application to the EU is not about having people “like” us. Do you think we’re idiots? It’s about getting a stable currency, interest rates that don’t cripple households or businesses in this country, and being able to buy food without going bankrupt.

  • Kanadier July 17, 2009, 11:55 pm

    Hopefully the EU will treat you better than they have Latvia then, once you get in that is.

  • Ljósmynd DE July 18, 2009, 7:38 am

    Gwrhyr, how do you come to the conclusion that the EU is run by “equivalent corrupt European counterparts of Iceland’s Independence Party” and “similar thugs”? Any concrete incidents or just a gut feeling? Sorry, but I think, this is rubbish.

    There seems a lot of fear mongering involved before the actual deal is on the table. Which is, why it seems so important for people to have something palpable when holding a referendum.

    The EU has an inflated bureaucracy but some more of it might be a counterweight to the Icelandic nepotism. Corruption in the EU occurs in connection with subsidies obtained by fraud. But this is mostly rooted within the member countries. As long as the European parliament consists mainly of disposed politicians, who can’t succeed in the national parliaments, then the acceptance of this institution is low. And the free market ideology within the EU administration is certainly debatable. But there are many fields, where the EU provides a saftey line for its member countries and I can’t imagine, that Iceland will be able to stand completely on its own in the long run. So I think, it’s the best to have Iceland’s most capable negotiators sent to Brussels and then take a look at the outcome – before excessively spreading gloominess.

  • alda July 18, 2009, 11:38 am

    Hear hear!!

  • Ljósmynd DE July 18, 2009, 11:58 am

    Just one more statement , if I am allowed: If I were an Icelander, I would be far more afraid by having to accept a loan from Russia than by entering membership talks with the EU. Perhaps my own personal prejudice and the Russians don’t really have anything up their sleeves but they have been very aggressive recently in putting forward their claims in the Arctic. Is there no discussion in Iceland about this?

  • alda July 18, 2009, 1:13 pm

    LDE – I totally agree. I even remarked to EPI that very same day that there had been minimal discussion about it. It happened just as the EU debate was at its height – I wonder if the timing was calculated.

  • tom joseph aka tj3 July 18, 2009, 7:16 pm

    I just have to say that icelandweatherreport .com is doing a great service by having a discussion about the Civic Movement and the proposal to consider joining the EU.

    From here in the USA the EU seems worthwhile but unfinished. Perhaps Iceland could influence its direction, if Icelanders choose to try and join up. As for the Civic Party not sticking to a general position on the EU referendum this reminds me ever so much of American Democrats and their temporizing about everything once in power.

    What power does to reform movements is beyond me. The EU had both modest and grand aims. I would hope that raw economic weight would not cause small nations to not have an equal voice on the merits of ideas. If it is just the press of so many dollars worth of cheese or natural gas then why bother? I do not know how I would vote if I were and Icelander probably yes but with doubts.

  • Mark DE July 19, 2009, 4:20 pm

    tj3 – “From here in the USA the EU seems worthwhile but unfinished. Perhaps Iceland could influence its direction, if Icelanders choose to try and join up.

    Iceland gave the EU the one finger salute while they were rich, but wants to join now that they’re having hard times.
    Even here the arguments here are solely centered around “sovereignty” and the “stability the Euro would bring”.

    So to expect that Iceland will be another France or Netherlands, inspired by the idea of a unified Europe and willing to make sacrifices to “finish” this vision might be a little overoptimistic.
    It is far more likely that Iceland will be another Britain or Poland — in for the perks, but torpedoing any further integration for the fear of losing “sovereignty”.

  • pool July 19, 2009, 4:52 pm

    The Russian loan scares the living daylights out of me. How and why did that come about so swiftly (ie back in October)? And how can the Russians afford it now that their economy is doing worse than projected?

  • Grif July 19, 2009, 5:07 pm

    About the lighter news…

    Sorry to hear about the damage in the apartment above you. Did you suffer any damage from the Aldafoss?

  • alda July 19, 2009, 6:26 pm

    Mark DE – oh please! Don’t tell me most of the EU nations applied for membership for purely altruistic reasons. Of course every country considers its own interests when making a decision like this. And it’s natural for Icelanders to fear losing their sovereignty after centuries of oppression.

    And what’s this about Iceland giving the EU the finger? Just because it didn’t want to join? Are Norway and Switzerland, e.g. also giving the EU the finger, then?

  • alda July 19, 2009, 6:27 pm

    Grif – yes, all is well, thankfully. And if not, the insurance company pays (we won’t mention anything about its recent bankruptcy and the corruption that is currently surfacing).

  • Gwrhyr July 28, 2009, 7:12 am

    Alda, I do apologize about my comment. I don’t want to insult Icelanders, and I didn’t mean to imply that Icelanders were stupid. I should have worded my comment differently. I just don’t think joining the EU to get the Euro will solve those issues you mentioned. Latvia’s adoption of the Euro has been delayed more than once, and may continue to be delayed due to IMF requirements. It and other EU nations have had to take out large IMF loans.
    Also, LDE, I did not come to my conclusions from a gut feeling. It comes from paying attention to how the EU is run, how European countries are being run, and how perceptions of corruption can keep people from understanding how their own societies function. I don’t think that is concrete enough for you, so I think we will have to agree to disagree on that.
    Please, no hard feelings anyone. Enjoy the Summer while it’s still here!