“It is my conviction that Alþingi owes it to society to complete work on constitutional amendments,” Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir wrote in a column published in Fréttablaðið today. Iceland’s Parliament began reviewing the constitution this fall in a cross-party committee, and Katrín has stated it will take at least two terms to complete the work. The revisions have been criticised by activists who point out that the Icelandic nation drafted and voted for a new constitution between 2010 and 2012, which the government never adopted.
Katrín’s column, titled “The opportunity lies with Alþingi,” focuses on the much-debated article concerning ownership of natural resources, which she calls “the fundamental issue that has been most debated in any discussion of constitutional reform.” It is one of the articles that the parliamentary committee has been reviewing this fall term.
The revisions the government has drafted regarding the utilisation of natural resources reflect those drafted by the Constitutional Committee in 2012 and “address all the principles that have been discussed in recent years,” according to Katrín. “It is stipulated that the utilisation of resources shall be based on sustainable development, which is the first time that this concept has been included in the constitution. It is stipulated that they may not be handed over for possession or permanent use. The granting of authorisations shall be based on laws which shall ensure non-discrimination and transparency. The law shall provide for a fee for the utilisation of resources for profit.”
Activists and supporters of the 2012 constitution, like Gunnhildur Fríða Hallgrímsdóttir, have opposed Parliament’s steps to reform the constitution behind closed doors. “It’s very strange that Parliament is going to make their own revisions to the constitution this fall,” Gunnhildur told Iceland Review in a recent interview. “They forget that the nation is the constitutional authority – all experts in Icelandic law agree on this. Even though we elected them, their opinion on this issue is not valid, because the nation is the constitutional authority.”
Critics of the 2012 constitution have argued that its lofty language may cause legal conundrums or that its sweeping changes could lead to a period of constitutional uncertainty. Activists argue that revisions to the constitution could greatly impact energy exploitation (such as the building of power plants in the highlands) and the fishing quota system.