Thursday, December 9, 2010

U.S. to host 2011 World Press Freedom Day

The venue of Washington DC for this three day conference from May 1st to 3rd 2011 is Orwellian. The notion that the US supports Press Freedom is entirely discredited by recent events, and UNESCO should not be lending credence to US claims that it does, by allowing the US to host this event.

I am championing the suggestion that Iceland would be a much better venue for this conference than the US, and hope that UNESCO which organises this conference and others involved in its production agree.

Iceland has recently enacted progressive legislation that provides sweeping protection of freedom of the press, since Iceland following its own domestic problems now sees the merit in having the media better able to report truths, before falsehoods undermine nation states. Iceland is accessible from both Europe and North America, and I imagine that most attenders would be far more comfortable and far safer meeting in Iceland, than incurring all of the risks associated with being a journalist visiting the US these days.

U.S. Department of State Press Announcement

World Press Freedom Day Facebook Discussion

Anti Wikileaks lies and propaganda

Friday, December 3, 2010

World running out of new places to fish

The world's fishing industry is fast running out of new ocean fishing grounds to exploit as it depletes existing areas through unsustainable harvesting practices, according to a study published Thursday.

Scientific American

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Icesave costs Iceland less than expected

A draft of an agreement between Icelandic, British and Dutch authorities on the dispute regarding Landsbanki’s Icesave deposits payback scheme has been completed and presented to parties of interest.

Vilhjálmur Egilsson, managing director of the Confederation of Icelandic Employer (SA), said the draft indicates that the Icelandic state will contribute much less to Icesave than originally expected, possibly ISK 60 billion (USD 532 million, EUR 391 million).

Iceland Review

Monday, November 15, 2010

Love you forever confidentially

Former Prime Minister of Iceland Davíd Oddsson and Foreign Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson were unaware as to the purpose of the list of the “coalition of the willing”—nations supporting the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003. The publication of the list came as a surprise; they thought it would be confidential.

Oddsson and Ásgrímsson decided to place Iceland’s name on the list two days before the invasion began. Tómas Heidar, an international law specialist at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs considered the invasion illegal and notified the ministers of his opinion the day the invasion began, Fréttabladid reports.

Light is shed on the events leading up to Iceland’s declaration of support in 67 documents, almost 300 pages, made public by the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

The documents confirm that the decision was made by two persons, Oddsson and Ásgrímsson. The decision was made without consultancy with the Althingi parliament or the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Iceland Review

Alien Landscape Alien People

The Icelandic Alien Society felt compelled to issue a statement after the interview with Mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós on Monday that he is not an alien, contrary to his claims.

The statement reads that although some of the mayor’s behavioral patterns and his physical appearance might indicate that he is from outer space, the society’s closer investigation into the matter has concluded that he is, in fact, an earthly creature.

The society concluded that Gnarr has both a social security number and human parents and a well-known, albeit dubious, history. Gnarr appears to have “simply the same political sloppiness syndrome as most other third-class politicians who cannot do much else than to go back on their promises.”

“These factors do not characterize most of the aliens who have visited the earth, whom we know only by their good deeds,” the society’s statement reads.

Iceland Review

Monday, November 1, 2010

Icelands fishermen face net ban

Iceland’s Minister for Fisheries has decided to change the country’s new rules on mackerel fishing, banning fishing nets altogether.

Iceland’s three thousand tonne quota has been given to small and medium sized boats and can only be fished with lines, hand reels and traps, reports. The Minister, Jon Bjarnason, came to his decision after the National Union of Fishers pointed out that mackerel nets could also catch salmon as by-catch. Salmon is not allowed to be targeted by ocean fishermen around Iceland.

[Sounds like a responsible decision to me]

Friday, October 29, 2010

So who owns the Mackerel.

The Icelandic delegation in the mackerel coastal state talks—the second series of meetings ended in London yesterday—is discontent with the latest proposal from the European Union and Norway, a 3.1 percent share in the mackerel quota.

“The unfair position of Norway and the EU, which is reflected in their ridiculous proposal of a 3.1 percent share for Iceland in the mackerel fishing quota next year, is disappointing. The proposal is completely unrealistic and does not contribute towards resolving the issue,” commented Tómas H. Heidar, the delegation’s chairman, to Fréttabladid.


If the mackeral are to survive, someone is going to have to teach them to stay out of the EU.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole of Cabbie Depression

[Don't take rides with strangers]

Soon darkness will envelope all for months on end and snow will fall mingled with hail, sheeting the windshield in freezing cold white. Such is the time for the depressed to wallow, for the forlorn to simmer in deep funk. The inching lapse of time and creeping stretches of wait pile up infinitely as the mind softens and slowly turns to mush. I vowed once for an end to this but my means are meagre and the coins call for me to claim them, the bills beg to be bound in my billfold.

I long ever to be the drunken lout whom I serve, as alcohol keeps the wolves at bay. I know indeed that it is a fine custom for a man to lock tight his heart’s coffer, keep closed the hoard case of his mind, whatever his thoughts may be. Yet I bare these feelings freely without care of being judged. Only by distribution can sadness be cast away, or by infecting others, my state be made to seem less wretched. Bereft of joy, I, by sorrowful utterance, bereave others of theirs.

Finally I catch a fare. Why does this please me, I wonder. Once safely shipped to whatever destination only more futility awaits. Safely shipping briefly considers ceasing as carelessly crashing presents a final solution. Might it be I’m listening to too much Neurosis? Should I perhaps switch to FM 957 and for a while become a happy zombie with its gleeful head swimming in sickeningly sweet and frothy pop culture hell bent on ever discovering a lower common denominator on which to breed a bleached hair generation of functional retards? Should I rather be happily monosyllabic than sadly eloquent? I probably will never know.

Tonight I spark an incorrigible flame and toke a jay. I get high on hate and loaded with bile, contempt and loathing. I run lights and ignore stop signs. I heed no limits and strive to end this ruined life continuum. I’m playing a game you see. Whoever is the biggest dick fare tonight gets to join me in the great beyond with a high-speed crash gasoline fire as the expedient.

A Nation Of Barebackers

It’s 4:30 in the morning at the 10-11 on Austurstræti, as a night of steady drinking, sweaty dancing and anonymous groping comes to an end. Couples slobber and dryhump through the aisles, clutching sandwiches and Coke to power-up for a night of sloppy fucking and awkward re-introductions in the morning. At the check-out line, the display rack of condoms and lubricants is practically untouched and ignored.

For the most part, Icelandic culture is more open and accepting of casual sexual activity than most places in the world. This cultural aspect has been popularised overseas to the point that the country’s leading airline managed to advertise ‘Dirty Weekend’ trips for years and Reykjavík is now a classic stag party destination for hooting British males. What the airline’s marketing campaign did not divulge to horny tourists was that ‘dirty’ should be taken quite literally and they might go home with more than they bargained for. The condom is not very popular in Iceland.


None of the young people I spoke with had any reasonable explanation for why there is such a pervasive aversion to slapping on a jimmy-hat and seemed apathetic to think of one. I turned to Sigurlaug Hauksdóttir for answers. Sigurlaug is a social worker at the Icelandic Directorate of Health and holds a Masters degree in parental sexual education. Her view is that condom use in the country is, indeed, insufficient, attributing it to several factors. “One reason is people here start to have sex very early, especially girls,” she told me. “European research has showed that Icelandic girls are the third youngest to start having sex, behind Greenland and Denmark. When kids start having sex very young, they are very vulnerable. It’s harder to assert themselves, say no and insist on using a condom.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

See Iceland for less..

For as little as $379 roundtrip, fly nonstop to Iceland or 10 European cities, all of which stop over in Iceland’s scenic capital, Reykjavik. Departures from Boston, New York City and Seattle.

But be warned.. Iceland being at its northern tip within 1km of the artic circle gets dark early in winter, and light late. That said, you'll see sunrises and sunsets, lighting up an amazing landscape without any loss of sleep. Iceland really is breakfast as the end of the universe.

I think Iceland should build a pier, or offer boat trips to Grimsey, just so that tourists visiting Iceland could make a day trip to the Arctic Circle, while in Iceland. Its at 66'33" North. I've crossed the Arctic Circle in another land of the midnight sun, but that was in Alaska north of Fairbanks -- not Iceland.

Much too short package tours

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EU and Greenland clash over Arctic issues

The European Union has accused Greenland and other Arctic nations of failing to ensure the environment in the far north is properly safeguarded. Vice president of the EU, Diana Wallis, said she could imagine “people on the streets” protesting if wider international stewardship is not guaranteed.

Greenland’s foreign minister responded to the allegations by accusing European countries which are pushing for a ban on deep-water drilling of suffering “panic reactions” after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Wallis, however, said at the meeting at Cambridge University this week that wider participation in the Arctic Council must become a reality.

“It’s got to be widened out. If we don’t do things then people will take to the streets to make sure something is done over climate change,” she said in a report by the Guardian.

Interest in the Arctic region has increased in recent years as global warming has triggered a race for natural resources that have long been trapped under the ice. Oil companies have already started to drill in the area, including Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy which announced two new oil and gas “shows” of the coast of Greenland in the past month. The EU has, however, been pressing for a ban on deep water drilling since the BP blow-out earlier this year in the Gulf of Mexico.

Greenland’s deputy foreign minister, Inuuteq Holm Oslen, said he is suspicious about the motives behind such “green” concerns.

“We welcome focus and attention on environmental issues […] What we don’t welcome is the notion that there should not be any industrial development in the name of environmental protection. What the rest of you have been benefiting from should not be denied to us in the Arctic,” he said.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Iceland wants to be your friend

MPs Propose Referendum on Iceland-EU Talks

Seven MPs of the Left-Green Movement, Independence Party, Progressive Party and The Movement, have submitted a parliamentary resolution to Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, that a national referendum on whether Iceland’s membership talks with the European Union are to continue. They suggest that the referendum take place on November 27, at the same time as the Constitutional Parliament, Morgunbladid reports.

The only problem is that according to legislation on national referendum approved by parliament in June this year, at least three months are supposed to pass between Althingi’s approval of a parliamentary resolution on a national referendum and when it takes place.

“I had forgotten about that legislation,” admitted Vigdís Hauksdóttir of the Progressive Party, who is the parliamentary resolution’s first presenter, to Fréttabladid. She said she will submit a bill at Althingi today on the amendment to the legislation passed in June so that a national referendum can be expedited.

A statement accompanying the parliamentary resolution says that the majority of MPs do not reflect the majority of the nation in its attitude towards EU membership.

The EU assumes that the parliament and the nation are unified in their position towards the EU, which is not the case in Iceland, the seven MPs argue.

Opinion polls show that the public opposes membership, only a narrow majority supports it in parliament and the government itself is split in its opinion, the statement continues.

If the majority of the nation supports continued membership talks with the EU, the government has a clear authority to carry on with talks but not until the nation has had its say, the statement concludes.

The seven MPs who submitted the resolution are, in addition to Hauksdóttir: Ásmundur Einar Dadason of the Left-Greens, Birgitta Jónsdóttir of The Movement, Halldóra Lóa Thorvaldsdóttir, substitute MP for the Left-Greens, Pétur H. Blöndal and Árni Johnsen of the Independence Party and Birgir Thórarinsson, substitute MP for the Progressive Party.


If others wish to provide input into this process a web search suggests that Vigdís Hauksdóttir might be reachable at

Monday, October 18, 2010

Russian Minister of Energy Visits Iceland

Russian Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko arrived on an official visit to Iceland yesterday [2010/10/17] and had a meeting with President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

Today, Shmatko will meet Minister of Industry Katrín Júlíusdóttir and representatives of Icelandic energy companies to discuss energy cooperation between Iceland and Russia, Fréttabladid reports.

Shmatko is accompanied by Evgeni Dod, CEO of Russian energy company RusHydro and Alexei Kusmitski, district commissioner of Kamchatka.

In Kamchatka the possibility of harnessing geothermal energy for heating, fish farming and electricity has been tested with the participation of Icelandic parties.

President Grímsson recently attended a conference about Arctic Regions in Russia and met President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Iceland Review

The validity of the Icesave-agreement

International law specialist at Norway’s Tromso University, Professor Peter Orebech, says that Iceland would actually be breaking EU rules by forcing its tax payers to reimburse the Netherlands and the UK for Icesave debt, which rightfully belongs with the country’s privately funded depositors’ insurance fund.

Comments invited at

Professor Orebech's conclusion:

The EU/EEA sector of finance is in principle self-financing. Funding to the depositor guarantee schemes is subtracted from the 0,15 % taxation of the bank's total assets. In case of insufficiency the scheme may borrow money, whether private or public. Another option is to insure against unexpected and uncovered losses. There are no other ways. Going for a national state guarantee prompted by the insufficiency as such, as is the case for Tryggingasjóður in the Icesave case, is breaking the [European Union] Directive 94/19/EC.

However, an agreement on the Icesave reimbursement – financed by loans taken by Tryggingasjóður – stripped by any guarantees from the Iceland government, is clearly legal. I.e. the growing scheme alone should service the loan.

Since the depositor guarantee scheme may not operate as means of competition, it is equally prohibited to implement legal systems the effect of which is distortion of competition. State funding cannot bring in to national depositors guarantee schemes, as stated in the Directive 94/19/EC. In case of lacking coverage all depositors suffers from a pro rata scaling-down. National state "topping up" is clearly unwarranted. A possible new system requires amendments to this directive. Such amendments should transform into EEA-law, to become binding in Iceland. No initiative is yet taken to fill that gap, I am afraid.

Thus the following is the result of this survey: Neither the government nor the people of Iceland should pay for the failing Icesave bank. The Landsbanki – Icesave CEO's responsibility is redoubtable. Depositors should critically assess bank leadership before trusting private funding to the bank. The bank deposit rules are published and notified. Persons seeking high profits are also seeking high risks.

This solution is placing responsibility where it belongs, to the leadership in the banks, to the CEO that failed to run the company and keep it afloat. Such a solution does not spoil the expectations of depositors.

His full report on this issue is available at

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stay Independent Iceland is told

Dear Iceland Review! Island! Stay independent! Do not on any terms join the European Union. As I have mentioned previously and which I correctly forecasted during the Icesave crisis, the EU is only interested in gaining control over your sovereignty. Your fish are of extreme importance for the EU including your aluminium production and the thermal energy sector. Joining the EU would be political suicide. DON’T DO IT ICELAND!

I would instead suggest getting support from Canada. Sincerely! Torben Arendal, Asmindrup, Denmark

Dear Icelanders All,

I have said in my previous letters that Iceland has something precious which marks it out as different to the rest of the world and you should not sacrifice this by joining the EU. The EU is a pretty well corrupt money pit and if you join will just suck the life out of your special island, take anything of value and leave you to fend for yourselves plus all the millions of foreigners you will have to support some how. All this with your hands tied behind your backs and freedoms removed. So fight on independently, maybe with the help of a partner like Canada. Torben is sooooo right. Keep on trucking Mike Pusey, Devon, England

Iceland and Russia cement ties on two fronts

23 September 2010

Two meetings yesterday put Icelandic-Russian relations in the spotlight: a meeting between both countries’ presidents near Moscow and a speech by the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in New York.

At a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart, Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he believes the time has come to intensify economic cooperation with Iceland. At his official residence outside Moscow, the Russian leader highlighted the importance of bilateral interaction in resolving regional issues, The Voice of Russia reported.

“We are jointly responsible for the Arctic, for the climate of the planet, we are responsible for our peoples, and it makes regular contacts necessary,” Medvedev said.

Olafur Ragnar Grímsson added that Iceland is willing to share expertise in the field of geothermal energy, referring to Russia’s Kamchatka region as a potential site for clean energy production. RUV reported that Medvedev is also enthusiastic to visit Iceland in the near future.

Meanwhile in New York, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ossur Skarphedinsson said in his speech to the NATO-Russia Council: “Icelanders see Russia as a strong and peaceful neighbour, which we increasingly want to work with in the same way as our other neighbours in the region; not least in areas concerning the Arctic”.

A statement from his ministry explains that Skarphedinsson wishes to strongly encourage greater co-operation between NATO and Russia. He said that the alliance and Russia are not enemies – in fact, in many important areas they have exactly the same interests.

The minister added that Iceland is placing greater emphasis on co-operation with Russia than before, as areas of common interest are greater now than ever. The statement says that Skarphedinsson welcomes NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s commitment to greater partnership with Russia, saying that he has the full support of the Icelandic government, reports.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holar cemetery 100th anniversary

The most unusual aspect of the little cemetery tucked away off a grid road in the Vatnabyggð area of Saskatchewan [Canada] is not immediately obvious.


However, in the Icelandic Holar Cemetery, where, in 1945, the committee members fought bitterly against the idea of holding sessions in English rather than Icelandic, there is only one Icelandic headstone inscription.Jon J. Stefansson (July 24, 1865 – March 24, 1934) is remembered completely in the Icelandic language.

His simple inscription, translated, reads “In memory of.” By contrast, when the headstone was designed for Johann Borgford, who was buried at Holar in 1910, these words were carved in English:

No pain or grief/no anxious fear/can reach the peaceful/sleeper here.” The old cemetery is still active, the final resting place of at least three generations of local Icelandic families.

It is tended by volunteers who gather at least once a year – more, in this year of the unceasing rain – to mow the grass, clip the edges, sweep the graves, and re-arrange bouquets of artificial flowers. This year, in honour of the 100th anniversary, 17 members, another three generations, gathered beside the tombstones after the work was done to share coffee, anniversary cake and ice cream.Information about the cemetery is easy to find.

The record-keeping, from the beginning, was meticulous. Names, date of death, cause of death, are all recorded. The original minutes, in Icelandic until 1946, have been translated by Bina Stefanson Fraser.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 21st Century Alaska

In 1867 the USA purchased Alaska for $7,200,000 US. In 1900 the US dollar was pegged to gold at the value of 1.67 grams of gold being worth $1US. Presumably more gold could perhaps have been purchased for $1 in 1867 since currencies tend to devalue. So the US purchased Alaska for approximately for 12,024 kg of gold. With 1kg being 35.27396195 ounces this was 424,134 ounces. Gold is currently selling for $1,372/ounce so a rough attempt at translation is that in todays dollars the US paid $581,912,010 or more than half a billion dollars for Alaska. But Alaska had virtually no infrastructure, roads, industry, etc. The paying off Iceland's $5 billion debt, really doesn't look like such a bad deal, when one equates it to the purchase of Alaska by the US. Of course given that Alaska has 14 times Icelands area, this looks like a pretty good deal for Iceland too. And I've probably got the math wrong somewhere.. Never could do arithmetic.

Of course one could also use web tools to answer the question directly. But then one gets to decide which of the following $7,200,000 in 1867 is now worth.
  • $108M
  • $96.8M
  • $851M
  • $1,680M
  • $1,480M
  • $12,300M

It is all "lies, damned lies and statistics".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Iceland Picks the World's First Openly Gay PM

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the new U.S. President last week, Americans made much of the fact that he was the country's first black Commander in Chief. On Saturday, when Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir takes over as Prime Minister of the small (pop. 320,000) nation of Iceland, she will become the world's first openly gay female head of government — and Icelanders are hardly batting an eye.

Sigurðardóttir, who was the Minister of Social Affairs in the outgoing government, boasts the highest approval ratings among Icelandic ministers, according to recent opinion polls. "She's a good choice," says Björn Björnsson, 26, a Web editor who lost his job during the nation's financial collapse. "She's one of our most experienced politicians, and through this crisis she has shown nothing but integrity and concern for the public. Iceland needs someone we can trust again, and she's earned my trust."

The longest-sitting MP in Iceland, with three decades in Parliament and four stints as Minister of Social Affairs, Sigurðardóttir has gained a reputation for voicing support for social issues such as gender equality, a robust welfare system and rights for the disabled and elderly. Fellow MP Ágúst Einarsson went as far as to call her "socialism incarnate." Firmly planted in left-of-center politics, the new Minister reflects the nation's postmeltdown retreat from the right, as demonstrated in recent polling data.

Besides her politics, the Minister's past as a working woman resonates with the increasingly disgruntled middle class. With only a high school diploma, Sigurðardóttir began her career as a flight attendant and later worked in the office of a box factory.

At 36, she was elected to Parliament. As Minister of Social Affairs she became known for refusing the official limousine and driver provided to all Ministers, opting to drive her Mitsubishi to work. "I don't think she's going to be the country's savior," says Einar Magnússon, a 34-year-old electrician, "but after the condescension and sheer arrogance we've seen in the outgoing leadership, it's refreshing to hear someone real talk to us."

While the Prime Minister's political track record and personal history have clearly garnered the nation's attention, her sexual orientation has raised relatively few eyebrows. Although Icelandic social policy is among the most progressive in the world — with provisions for marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples — Sigurðardóttir maintains a decidedly low public profile with her civil partner of six years Jónína Leósdóttir, a noted journalist and playwright. "Being gay is not an issue in Iceland," explains Frosti Jónsson, chairman of Iceland's gay-and-lesbian association. "There are so many openly gay prominent figures in both the public and private sector here that it doesn't affect who we select for our highest offices. Our minds are focused on what counts, which is the current situation in the country."

With food prices up 73% and some forecasting unemployment exceeding 10% this year, all eyes are on Sigurðardóttir as she tackles the herculean task of salvaging the island's economy. "The job she is about to take on is both the most difficult and most critical that any Icelander of our generation has taken on," former university rector Runólfur Ágústsson said. "The future of this society depends on how she handles this position.",8599,1875032,00.html

A toast to Canada

A speech by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland on Islendingadagurinn August 2nd 2010

It is a great pleasure to be with you here today on this splendid occation. I want to thank you for inviting us to participate in the festivities of Islendingadagurinn.

We have been here a few days now and this has been an adventure beyond anything we could have imagined. We have visited Icelandic Winnipeg and walked along Sargent Street. It is fascinating to think that a few decades ago we would have heard Icelandic spoken everywhere on that street, both in the shops and the sidewalks as well as in the children´s playgrounds. We saw the First Lutheran Church where a generation of people, born in Iceland, worshipped. The church where young immigrants got married and a new generation was christened and blessed to carry on the hopes and dreams that were born in a country far away, but always in their hearts.

As Prime Minister I bring you the greetings of the Icelandic Government which is hard at work steering our country through very difficult times. There were no easy solutions and there certainly were few popular decisions to be made. But like the Icelanders arriving at White Rock 135 years ago we are determined to succeed - fortified by the knowledge that we have many times before in our history been faced with great adversity and survived.

Iceland is blessed with great resources - the fish in the sea, the power in the waterfalls and the geothermal energy. The nation is educated and the people are hardworking as always. We have a solid infrastructure of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and airports, already built and mostly paid for. Our long term prospects are therefore good and I am certain that within a few years we will be doing fine again.

The friendship and moral support of the people of Icelandic descent in Canada is greatly appreciated and much needed. Canada enjoyes unparalelled respect among the nations of the world for how open and welcoming the country has been to immigrants from all continents and how you have created a true multicultural society full of compassion and understanding.

We have a very special bond between Iceland and Canda – made strong by common history and shared heritage. The fact that Canadians of Icelandic descent have formed about 30 different clubs, chapters and institutions to nurture the Icelandic history and heritage in Canada is a solid testament to the unique dedication that people of Icelandic descent in Canada show to their Icelandic roots.

Earlier this year Iceland lost one of its best friends in Canda, former Consul General, Neil Bardal whom we are forever grateful to and will remeber fondly. I never met Neil, but I heard about him from numerous friends and greately respected him. His lifelong effort to strengthening the relationship between Canada and Iceland will never be forgotten. God bless Neil Bardal.

We are grateful to Canada for many things and we admire and respect what has been achieved here - and we love Canada because it is home to thousands and thousands of wonderful people of Icelandic descent – our friends and relatives.

Dear friends

I admire your dedication and I assure you that my government is fully committed to working with you in perserving and honoring your history and heritage.

Let me thank you again for your invitation. Thank you - takk fyrir.

God bless Canada

Monday, October 11, 2010

Russia gives credit to Iceland

This news is now about a year old, and should have been included here earlier. But better late than never!

The Russian government has decided to give Iceland a 500 million USD credit in crisis aid. The Russian government, itself struggling with major economic hardships, has granted Iceland a 500 million USD loan, Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin yesterday told newspaper Vedomosti. That message comes less than a month after an official Icelandic delegation visited Moscow.

Conditions for the credit remain unclear. A press spokesman for the Icelandic government says however to the newspaper that negotiations are still ongoing.

Iceland quickly approached Russian authorities after the collapse of its economy last year. Negotiations with the Russian have been going on for months. Finance Minister Kudrin quickly admitted however that the bid for a 4 billion USD loan, first requested by Iceland, would be too much for Russia.

Russia has only minor economic relations with Iceland. The North Atlantic state remains however a geo-strategically highly interesting partner for Russia. In addition, it is believed that Russian corporate interests have invested heavily in parts of the Icelandic economy.

The crisis-ridden Icelandic economy is from before supported by a loan from the IMF. All the Nordic countries have also contributed substantial sums to help Iceland overcome it historic economic downturn.

The economic crisis is about to significantly alter the political adherence of Iceland. EU membership is in the pipeline and analysts have also speculated about a possible new role of Russia on the island.

That speculation was spurred by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson during a dinner with foreign diplomats late last year. Mr. Grimsson then shocked the diplomats saying that Russia could be invited to take use of the strategically important Keflavik airbase. As BarentsObserver reported, the president also said that his country needs “new friends”.

Interest in this blog

Internal statistics provided by this blog give an interesting analysis of where in the world this blog is being viewed. Here are the number of hits to this blog by country:

  • United States 82
  • Canada 63
  • U.K 55
  • Germany 51
  • Netherlands 42
  • Switzerland 21
  • Ukraine 20
  • Russia 18
  • Lithuania 17
  • Poland 17

I am most surprised to see no reference to Iceland in the above list. I would have thought that this blog would have been of more interest to Iceland than Russia or Germany. Might those in the countries cited above perhaps tell Iceland that they are being courted by at least some in Canada.

Visits to this blog have recently shot up.. there were 409 page views performed against this blog in the last month.

Politics 101

So how does one move what may be an essentially good idea, viewed as somewhat wacky by those that haven't given it adequate consideration, forward? What is the community that is in greater need of being convinced -- Canada, or Iceland -- and how given a perceived need to convince a majority does one move forward. Should it be heads of state who one encourages to meet over tea to discuss mergers of nations, or should it be the people who one encourages to challenge the heads of state to comply with their wishes. The American model is one in which demand for change is often inflicted on the leadership as consequence of the desires of the grass roots majority, while in Canada change is more typically inflicted on the many as consequence of informed decisions being made by those elected to represent that majority. Somewhat counter-intuitively I am not at all comfortable with the notion that vocal minorities (such as I might be) should be thinking they have the right to impose their wills on the majority. But if I have no such right, how does a minority vision become a majority position?

A two year old poll rediscovered

I rediscovered a poll that I set up two years ago now. It seems that the majority of submissions much to my surprise say not that Iceland should join Canada, but that Iceland will join Canada.

Reiterating my position

It has been several years since I first began advocating that Canada should invite Iceland to join confederation. It seems time to again provide justification for this position.

How might Iceland change Canada

While many choose to champion conformity, I believe that (as was said many years ago) there is "strength through diversity". I see the inclusion of a new strong vibrant culture within the canadian mosaic as a fundamentally exciting notion, and one likely to serve Canada well. I do not like narrow definitions of what Canada is, and think that broadening the definition of Canada to include Iceland would discourage the type of polarisation that we have sometimes seen. Europe which already has much diversity of culture, language and tradition from the numerous distinct countries within it, profits less from Icelandic "new blood" than Canada.

A bit of little known history

I grew up in Europe and grasp that Canada is somewhat isolated by our geography. We are geographically very close to the US, and a long way away from anywhere else. Including Iceland within the Canadian confederation would move our eastern borders significantly closer to Europe. This would encourage greater trade and cooperation between Canada and Europe, with Iceland our gateway to Europe. It would also offer Iceland new markets for its products both in Canada and the US. Europe profits less when seeking to use Iceland as a bridgehead to the New World because geographically, Iceland remains somewhat separated from the new world by Greenland, and greater integration with Europe offers Iceland no new markets for its products.

MP's propose referendum on EU

Canada enjoys the luxury of being able to cooperate both within the framework of the commonwealth, and the francophony. Inclusion of Iceland within Canada would potentially align us as closely with the Nordic nations. We are, in all but name already a Nordic nation. We have the same climate, the same geography and to a large extent the same or similar political concerns. Icelands inclusion within Europe offers Europe no similar advantage.

The Arctic League

Iceland is a rich nation with a very small population having control over considerable natural resources. We too could similarly be described. Icelands inclusion within Canada would be a balanced one, in that we would not within Canada be assuming long term liability over an impoverished people as consequence of adopting Iceland, while Iceland would avoid being placed in a position where a very large resource poor Europe demanded that Iceland's resources be exploited for the benefit of Europe by European companies.

What about natural resources

Iceland's current debt problems are huge ones for a population of 300,000 but very much more easily absorbed by a population of 33,000,000. Dollar costs in Iceland would in a Canadian context be expressed instead in cents. Prior to the current crisis in Iceland it's debt ratio was 28.3% of GDP and is now reportedly 90% of GDP. That is not so different from Canada's current debt ratio which is around 80% of GDP. We would not be assuming any major liabilities, we don't already have by accepting Iceland into our confederation. And we would both be profiting considerably by enlargement of our collective territory.

Russia gives $500,000,000 to Iceland

Iceland remains vulnerable to unexpected crisis's while it remains entirely self sufficient. A population of 330,000 can't hope to be able to insure itself as well as a population of 33,000,000 against unexpected disasters. Even within Europe Iceland would not be well protected against ill-fortune, because the very notion of being sovereign nations within Europe brings with it the disputes about one nation providing assistance to another in times of need, as we have seen all too clearly, in the economic crisis there.

The 21st Century Alaska

Militarily control over Iceland's airspace and waters is necessary, in any situation where Iceland would prove incapable of preserving its neutrality through defence of its own territory. Iceland was I believe called the pistol of the Atlantic by Churchill, because who ever has the ability to be based in Iceland effectively as consequence has control over the North Atlantic. Geographically Iceland position permits defence of Canada's eastern seaboard, and its northern arctic coastline. The suggestions being floated by Russia that Iceland be offered assistance in exchange for Iceland ceding its ports to Russia, is strategically a nightmare scenario for Canada, the US, and Europe. Strategically, Iceland is important to both Canada and Europe, but I would argue that it is fundamentally more important to Canada because despite its size, Canada is effectively all but an island, and for island nations navies constitute their first lines of defence, and are vital in protecting supply links.

Currently there is much debate over the future control of the arctic. Iceland will perhaps find some challenge in defending its own territorial claims to the arctic. It makes sense for Iceland's claims to be defended by a larger voting block. Canada's own claims to the arctic are similarly challenged by much larger populations in both the US and Russia. Canada supporting Icelands claims and Iceland supporting Canada's can only help both sides on the international stage, defend their own interests. The geographic separation between Iceland and Canada means that there is little likelyhood of Canada and/or Iceland disputing borders here. That is not as clear if Iceland is but one nation within many inside the EU. One only has to remember previous wars fought between Iceland and Europe (particularly Britain) over territorial boundaries that Iceland wished to enforce.

EU and Greenland clash over Arctic.

In terms of demographics most Icelander's have migrated on to Canada rather than gone back to Europe. Gimli in Manitoba was for a while an Icelandic colony within what was to become Canada, and Icelanders will find strong support from inclusion within Canada from the existing Icelandic community here. It was Icelanders who were the first europeans to colonize the new world, and we already include within our cultural heritage viking settlements in Newfoundland, and the arctic.

The raw demographics

I believe Iceland would be better served by the political frameworks established as consequence of history within Canada than those frameworks established as consequence of history within Europe. I think that the example of Prince Edward Island, and to a lesser extend Newfoundland demonstrate that small distinct communities within the canadian confederation, are offered equal representation at the table with larger provinces, having many times their population. Iceland would be able to preserve its own parliament within the Canadian Federation, and its own language, and legal system, just as other provinces such as Quebec have. Natural resources are within Canada already recognised as being controlled, managed and owned by the provinces within which they reside, and this I think will provide better future protection of Iceland's natural resources than would be afforded if it were to join Europe. I've seen Iceland. Iceland is a beautiful country with a proud tradition of defending its environment, both on land and at sea. I too want to see that environment protected and preserved for future generations.

The probable show stopper

Finally, I believe that Canada serves Iceland better by being a potential suitor for Iceland's favour than by operating from the perspect that Iceland should be helped or not helped by anyone but Canada. I believe that not opening the door to Iceland, should it come knocking would be a tragedy for both nations. Competition creates choice, and competition for a scarce commodity drives up prices. I think that Europe needs to be taught that Iceland is not the whipping boy here, made to pay for European foolish trust in Icelandic banks, but rather the bride that anyone in their right mind would love to be offered opportunity to marry. The current bad feeling between Iceland and Europe does not seem to me to the ideal conditions under which to be debating a shot gun wedding between the two. I'd rather that a marriage (should there be one) was the result of a genuine love affair. I love Iceland, and I love Canada. I think it natural to at least imagine that upon reflection Icelanders might themselves realise that this attraction was mutual. For those Icelanders who do not know Canada I say visit Newfoundland, visit the Maritime provinces, visit the arctic, see the Rockies, dip your feet in the Pacific, and ideally do it all by train or car. And for those Canadian's who do not know Iceland, I can only say that Iceland is a must see destination .. go there and see it all. Iceland is stunningly beautiful. Don't be afraid about language issues. Most of the population of Iceland is quite comfortable with English, and more than welcoming.

The Saga of Newfoundland

And all of the above said, one further point must be said and said strongly. I would only want Iceland to join Canada, if that was the will of both Canada and Iceland. I respect and value diversity.. I would not wish to impose my opinions and attitudes on others, except through the force of reasoned argument that resulted in the conviction of those that heard it.

We thought we had friends

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finally I'm not a sole voice crying in the wilderness

There is now a facebook page I've just discovered that is also promoting the idea that Iceland should be invited to join Canada. To reiterate (as a Canadian) I obviously can't speak as someone who knows what is best for Iceland.. but I remain convinced two years after first raising this issue, that inclusion of Iceland within the Canadian confederation as an llth province, would benefit Canada and Canadians enormously, and prove just as beneficial in the long term to Iceland. I genuinely believe that if the Icelandic choice is to marry the EU or marry Canada, that Canada is the better suitor.

Does Iceland want to join the EU

The Icelandic government, or the part of it that favours EU membership, has naturally tried to put on a brave face and convince Brussels that eventually the public opinion will turn around. Especially when the so-called Icesave dispute with the British and Dutch governments has been solved, if it is solved. But the reality is, as Mr Kristjánsson explains, that Icelanders have in fact never been interested in joining the EU. There has always been heavy opposition to membership and additional debate on the issue has tended only to increase this opposition.

An opinion poll carried out in June by Capacent Gallup showed that nearly 60 percent of Icelanders are in favor of the government withdrawing the country's [EU] application, due in part to the banking issue. Only a quarter of those polled opposed such a move.,,5840269,00.html

The Icesave Issue

Iceland will honour its international obligations. The Icelandic parliament has three times stated its intention to repay the UK and the Netherlands the mininum deposit guarantees paid out to Icesave retail depositors. Ordinary Icelanders have protested the severe economic burden falling on them for the failure of a commercial bank operating overseas, and many view the terms of the repayment as unfair and threatening to Iceland´s overall economic recovery. The Icesave Act, adopted on 30 December 2009, was rejected in a referendum on 6 March 2010. The government will continue to engage with the UK and the Netherlands to resolve the Icesave issue.