Eurovision Act Hatari: “We Hope to See an End to the Occupation”


Icelandic Eurovision act Hatari stated they wish to see the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestine in a Eurovision press conference yesterday. Band members Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson and Klemens Nikúlasson Hannigan answered questions from reporters during the band’s first press conference for the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. “Well we, of course, hope to see an end to the occupation as soon as possible and that peace will come. We are hopeful,” said Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson.

A reporter asked Hatari if they intend to make a political statement during their stay in Israel, especially in light of the events of recent days in Israel. The events refer to the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel where 23 people have lost their lives. Qassam rockets from Palestine were fired upon Israel, and the Israel military shelled the Gaza area as well as directing airstrikes on the area.

Matthías of Hatari responded so to the question: “The comment I think you’re referring to is one we gave in Icelandic media. What we said was we would use out agenda-setting influence that comes through participation, or that really comes through any spectacle that catches the public eye. Through this agenda-setting influence, we would try to uphold a critical discussion around the context in which this contest is being held. And that is what we’ve tried to do in our conversations with various media and will continue doing. In regards to what happens on the stage itself, we are determined to take part in the contest and comply with the rules, just like everyone else.”

The moderator of the discussion attempted to shut down any further comments and questions on this subject, but Hatari member Klemens Nikúlasson Hannigan asked the reporter to finish his question. After the duo of Matthías and Klemens consulted each other, Matthías commented further: “Well we, of course, hope to see an end to the occupation as soon as possible and that peace will come. We are hopeful.”

The whole discussion and their answers can be seen in the video below. The discussion regarding Israel’s occupation of Palestine starts at around the 17:45 mark in the video.

Hatari will represent Iceland in the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest which will take place in Tel Aviv on May 14. Should Hatari advance to the final, they will perform on May 18 in the Expo Tel Aviv arena.

When the Icelandic national broadcast channel RÚV asked Hatari about the press conference, they had this to say: “There was a press conference where we received a lot of good questions, but admittedly the moderator tried to censor us. But we didn’t let her control that,” said Klemens. Matthías stated that they had been warned about this, “We attempted to bring our matters forward, and spoke about the fact that it would be preferable that the occupation came to a stop. It would have been preferable to delve deeper into that subject but we might attempt to do so in conversation with reporters,” Matthías added.

Government Aims to Shut Down Microlenders

currency iceland

Most microloan companies operating in Iceland are in the ownership of a single company headquartered in Denmark, RÚV reports. This allows them to offer loans with conditions which are illegal according to Icelandic law, but not Danish. The Icelandic government and Consumer Agency of Iceland are hoping to shut down such activities, which are causing higher rates of debt, particularly among young people.

According to Icelandic law, interest and other incidental costs associated with a loan may not surpass 50% of the loan amount. Examples show some microlenders charging Icelandic consumers as much as 35,000% of the original loan amount. Two microloan companies were even declared bankrupt, yet continued lending to Icelanders through a Danish website. Since the companies are registered in Denmark, it’s more difficult for the Consumer Agency of Iceland to assist consumers who find themselves unable to pay up.

Young people affected

The number of young people in Iceland who sought professional help due to financial problems grew around 6.5% in 2018 compared to the previous year. In 2012, only 5% of individuals who sought out such services were aged 18-29. In 2018, the same age group represented 27.3% of those who sought financial help, and most stated that microloans were the main cause. Debtor Representative Ásta Sigrún Helgadóttir told RÚV there are examples of young people owing as much as ISK 5 million ($41,000/€37,000). “This is ofen a vicious cycle,” Ásta Sigrún stated. “People start by taking a loan, then they take a loan to pay off a loan.” Ásta underlined how easy it is for consumers to obtain the loans, saying no credit approval is required for loans under ISK 2 million ($16,400/€14,700).

Government takes action

A government report submitted last January suggests that much remains to be done to protect consumers and ensure fair business practices in the microloan industry. One of the suggestions made by the reports’ authors was to better regulate advertising of microloans. Minister of Consumer Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir says it is not enough to inform consumers about the dangers of microloans, as there will always be individuals who take such loans out of necessity. Þórdís plans to introduce a bill this fall banning microlenders from offering loans whose incidental costs are illegal according to Icelandic law. She hopes the bill will make business unfeasible for the microlenders, causing them to shut down.

Going to court

Hákón Stefánsson of Creditinfo Group says the easiest way to bring microlenders’ operations to a halt would be for debtors to take them to court. As of the present, no microloan debt cases have been put before Icelandic courts. Hákón believes the companies’ would not be able to defend their case before the courts.