Icelandic ministers gearing up for Chinese investment battle?

Politicians in Iceland are discussing whose decision it will be to decide whether to grant Chinese investor Huang Nubo’s controversial request to buy a large tract of land in the country.

Icelandic Minister for the Interior, Ogmundur Jonasson, should take careful account of the opinions of other government ministers when taking the decision of whether or not to sell Grimsstadir a Fjollum to Nubo for a giant hotel and tourism complex, colleagues are saying. Jonasson has implied that he is not  in favour of the deal on a personal level.

Arni Pall Arnason, the country’s trade and economy minister, brought up the issue at a cabinet meeting yesterday with a formal memo. He said that there is no political doubt that the final decision on land sales to non-EEA individuals or entities lies with the interior ministry; but added that general public opinion should also guide Jonasson’s decision, as well as the opinion of other ministries. Foreign investment in business, for example, comes under his ministry, Arnason argued. The Nubo deal would also impact international trade agreements, which come under the foreign ministry.

Arnason refused to explicitly tell how he feels the Nubo application should be processed — re-emphasising that the final decision will fall to the Ministry of the Interior. There is a general need, however, for Icelanders to be welcoming towards investors who are willing to put their money in Iceland, he said. “We haven’t had masses of such opportunities in the past and it is important that we get these investments which also bring new knowledge in new economic fields. And there needs to be extremely good reasons to reject such [offers],” he said.

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