The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has called for transparent scrutiny of the fundamental economic failures amongst European institutions during the recent Global Leadership Summit 2013 (GLS2013) at London Business School, UK.
The President joined a discussion led by Richard Quest, an International Business Correspondent for CNN International, as part of the closing keynote Iceland´s Road to Recovery and Closing Remarks, which took place Monday 20th May 2013.
During the President’s keynote, he states, “Like in many other times in European history, they [European Union leaders] are victims of an ideological prison.” He continues by mentioning, “What is lacking is the honest, intellectual, political, economic examination within the European institutions, of the fundamental failure, which the last four or five years has produced.”
President Grímsson explained that he can’t understand why banks are being considered the holy churches of the modern economy, and that Europe’s primary legacy to the world is not financial markets, but democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
When speaking about Iceland’s recovery, President Grímsson explained that Iceland focused on saving the welfare services of those who have the lowest income, rather that implement the austerity measures recommended for other European countries.
“We saw a situation where our [Iceland’s] entire demographic and social fabric was breaking down; it was one of the most dramatic examples in recent history that the failure of financial markets can fundamentally threaten European and Western democracy,” explained Grímsson.
During the keynote, Quest asked for his reasons why Grímsson chose to veto the Icesave bailouts, even though Parliament passed this legislation twice. Grímsson explained that the Icelandic parliament partly passed this legislation because the “Gordon Brown government”, supported by every European government, used the board of the IMF for the most elaborate high-level financial blackmail [he] had ever witnessed. Stating:
“If we didn’t make the ordinary people of Iceland responsible for the failure of a private bank in Britain, the IMF programme for Iceland would have been stopped, and it was for over a year. That was why the government of the time thought that they had to make a deal, but the interesting fact now is that we know, because it has been tested, that this policy that was reported by every European government was so wrong; it turned out to be financial wrong, demographically wrong and also legally wrong.“
He followed by saying, “In order to help Europe to get out of this deep crisis, they should ask themselves why they were so wrong in this case; if it was even illegal within the European Financial System to ask the people of Iceland to be responsible for the failure of a private bank.”
The Global Leadership Summit is an annual discussion held by London Business School, whereby leading figures in international politics and media insight on the future of global leadership, and about the challenges of past and modern day leadership.
To watch the keynote in full, click here – viewers will have to register first.