News highlights of the week 15-22 February 2014, as digested by Yours Truly.
A bull walks into a china shop
The week started with a bang last Sunday morning when PM Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson appeared on the weekly talk show Sunnudagsmorgun. The PM has been increasingly under fire for his dictatorial ways of late [e.g. see paragraph three of last week's review] and his conduct on the show certainly did nothing to quell that criticism. Half the nation sat transfixed in front of their TV or computer screens and couldn’t believe their eyes or ears. He was like an adolescent about to explode with self-righteous indignation, all because the host went after him with pointed questions and refused to let him get away with not answering. It is practically impossible to describe with words just what went down in that 30 minute interview [I would know ... I tried to get my husband to describe it because he listened to it before I saw it, and he was completely at a loss for words, and kept saying "You just have to watch it."] Descriptions of the PM’s behaviour ranged from “unstable” to “insane” to “dangerous” … though, to be fair ,a handful of people applauded his insolence and arrogance. One pundit went so far as to say that this was the beginning of the end for the PM. Most agreed that the interview was a historic moment in Sigmundur Davíð’s career, though in what way still remains to be seen.
Stalling report sees light of day
This week a report was released by the Economics Department at the University of Iceland on the status of Iceland’s accession talks with the EU. The report was commissioned by the government, probably more as a stalling action than anything else [they'd promised a referendum on the continuation of accession talks but really didn't want to honour that promise, hence committees and reports and yada yada]. It is widely agreed that the report doesn’t really answer any of the major questions concerning Iceland’s possible accession, or concessions it might or might not be able to obtain when it comes to the big contentious issues, i.e. fisheries and agriculture. The report does point out that there is not much of a precedence for such concessions – a point that the opponents of the EU immediately latched onto and gleefully ran with. Meanwhile the pro-EU camp pointed out the multitude of concessions that have been made for states that have joined in the past. Possibly the biggest story to come out of this report is how each camp has managed to interpret its findings to support their own positions. Meanwhile all the practical questions concerning Iceland and its possibility for negotiating remain unanswered.
And to hammer the final nail in the coffin
The IP put forward a motion in parliament on Friday to formally scrap all accession talks with the EU. RIP.
In the meantime
An ominous news item caught my eye this week. It was little more than a blip on the news radar and has received no discussion as far as I know. It is this: a road that leads to the volcanic craters Eldvörp, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, has been closed. Eldvörp has been popular with nature lovers and geologists alike for its unique geological significance. So why is the road closed? Well, it is owned by the infamous HS Orka, which some of you may remember the huge controversy over a few years back. It is likely that HS Orka is going to start test drilling on the Eldvörp site, hence the closed road. Those of you who have been following the energy debate and all the insanity surrounding the proposed new smelter on Reykjanes will grasp the significance of this. It is heinous.
And now for a bit of good news
For not everything was morose and depressing this week. The good news was that the parties in parliament managed to reach an agreement on the Nature Act that the previous government passed but that the current government threatened to scrap. The Act went further than all acts have in the past in protecting endangered areas in Iceland, and was a really significant piece of legislation. When the news hit that the current government was going to trample all over it, many of us felt completely distraught and demoralized. It is pretty incredible that they managed to agree that the Act will go ahead, although its taking effect has been pushed back for about a year [that was the compromise]. A part of me is wary, thinking it may be a trick [I don't trust these jokers further than I can throw the lot of them], but if not, it most definitely is something to celebrate.
Quote of the week
The European Union is in fact not equipped to take on a prosperous state like Iceland and to hold accession talks on equal ground.
- Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs