Iceland’s resources debate: fighting whom for what?

Former Icelandic government minister Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson (1987-95) says that the battle for Iceland’s natural resources is not against the European Union and that is a purely domestic fight, he told a conference.

He made his comments as a keynote speaker at the Social Democratic Party’s European Movement conference, alongside Styrmir Gunnarsson, former editor of Morgunblaðið.

Styrmir said that for his part he does not feel there is a battle in progress for Iceland’s natural resources. He says that fears around land control by foreigners probably stems from the Cold War when Icelanders were nervous of foreign military bases being built in their country.

“I was no bloody teenager when I spent four years of my life negotiating the European Economic Area contract,” Jón Baldvin retorted. He said that arguments against Icelandic EEA membership were much the same in his time as arguments against EU membership are now: “That the fishing grounds would fill with the Spanish fleet, Portuguese workers would flood the Icelandic market and that German millionaires would buy everything in the country,” Jón Baldvin said.

Styrmir said that nobody has done more to transfer natural resources to the rich than the left-wing government which allowed the individual transferable quota system. He said that at the time nobody said anything about the important fact that resources were being placed in the hands of the few. The changes created a slew of fisheries millionaires in Iceland.