An Icelandic cabinet meeting at the official presidential mansion of Bessastadir has ended and the reshuffle of the government is now official. One departing minister made his last official act to approve a Dutch application to bring old Russian fighter jets to Iceland for international war games.
The new cabinet has already started working, but the ceremonial change over of ministry keys will take place later this afternoon.
As previously speculated, the non-elected ministers Gylfi Magnusson and Ragna Arnadottir both leave the cabinet, along with Alfheidur Ingadottir and Kristjan Moller. Gudbjartur Hannesson and Ogmundur Jonasson enter the cabinet in their place. The new cabinet has 10 ministers instead of 12.
Gudbjartur Hannesson will control the two ministries currently responsible for health, social affairs and national insurance and Ogmundur Jonasson will take over the two ministries which cover justice, human rights, transport and communications. Arni Pall Arnason will move to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir has already confirmed that more changes will come in the New Year – including merging ministries to match the number of ministers.
Finance Minister and head of the Left Green Movement, Steingrimur J. Sigfusson told RUV that the cabinet reshuffle strengthens the government coalition and shows that the government is not at all on its last legs.
Meanwhile, Kristjan Moller’s last act as Minister for Transport, Communications and Local Government was to grant permission for the Icelandic Civil Aviation Authority to begin preparations to licence the Dutch company ECA Program Limited to operate in Iceland. Government sources later stressed that this does not automatically mean that the project has been green-lighted to go ahead.
ECA’s controversial plan is to base a fleet of old Russian fighter jets at Keflavik which will be available for hire with pilots to act as enemy planes in military training.
Critics describe the idea as creating a private military in defenceless Iceland; but ECA insists that its planes will be entirely unarmed and unable to engage in any sort of real combat. Their purpose will be to provide the world’s air forces with different planes flown by different people to simulate a more realistic type of war training. The company also points out that just because its planes will have their base and support crews in Iceland, does not mean the war games will take place anywhere near the country.
The minister pointed out that the project will create 200 immediate jobs and 150 long-term highly skilled, highly paid positions in the region of Iceland suffering the worst unemployment.