Össur handed Icesave in spite of opposition ire

Össur Skarphéðinsson

The Icelandic foreign minister will take control of the country’s Icesave defence preparations at the EFTA court; despite loud calls from the opposition to keep the case in the hands of the business and commerce minister.

Össur Skarphéðinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs, has been given political oversight of Iceland’s defence case being prepared after the EFTA decided to take the country to court over its handling of the failed Icesave accounts in the Netherlands and the UK. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting today.

The decision has been widely discussed in recent days, including in Alþingi, among opposition parties and in the Alþingi foreign affairs committee — which itself voted to keep the case in the hands of Minister of Economic Affairs, Árni Páll Árnason; who was in charge of all things Icesave before the EFTA decided to take the matter to court last week.

The foreign affairs committee vote was won by the two Independence Party MPs, two Progressive Party MPs and one from the ruling Left Green Movement. Meanwhile the four remaining government committee members from the Social Democrats and the Left Greens voted to transfer the matter to the foreign minister. The Movememt’s Birgitta Jónsdóttir agreed with the government stance, but she only holds observer status. It was therefore 5-4.

The committee meeting last night was also attended by permanent secretaries from the Prime Ministry and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs; as well as an expert adviser in matters related to the EFTA court. They all agreed that the case belongs with Össur Skarphéðinsson.

The committee’s main concern when voting for Árni was that the EFTA court case should not be put in the same hands as the Icelandic European Union accession negotiations. Also the committee stated that all parties and members of Alþingi need to unite behind the minister in this case and the majority of its members felt that unifying minister should be Árni Páll Árnason.

The government was duty bound to consider the committee’s suggestion carefully, but eventually this morning decided to go with the non-political experts’ recommendation.

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