Analysis: Is Holland Preparing for Political War Against Iceland? Skip to content

Analysis: Is Holland Preparing for Political War Against Iceland?

When a group of Greenpeace activists easily slipped past the security at Rotterdam harbor on Thursday morning, they had only one target in mind: A ship containing some containers from Iceland to Japan. The group chained themselves to the mooring ropes of the container ship NYK ORION, which had meat from 13 fin whales onboard in seven containers. Greenpeace called on the authorities to seize the containers.

The owner of the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur called this an act of terrorism. Many Icelanders are perplexed at the involvement of the Dutch authorities. Not only did the security officers let the group slip through the security but gave in to their demands. According to Greenpeace the operation was a success. On their web site they claim “Following our protest this morning, Rotterdam port police have promised that a whale meat shipment en route to Japan from Iceland will remain at the port. The ship’s owner has decided to off load the Fin whale meat.” According to reports the ship sailed on without the containers.


Photo: From the movie Reykjavík Rotterdam

The Icelandic viewpoint is clear on this. The Fin Whale is not an endangered species. On the web site of the International Whaling Commission it is said that there is “[e]vidence of recovery in the North Atlantic and parts of the Southern Hemisphere.” The limited whale hunting is perfectly legal and does not in any way endanger the fin whale species. The yearly catch is limited to at most 150 animals out of an estimated 24 to 30 thousand in the North-Atlantic-areas.

The Greenpeace group was not arrested after the incident according to a police spokeswoman in Rotterdam. At the same time she said that all papers for the shipment were in order. Still, the ship sailed on, without the containers full of whale meet. An Icelandic customs official, Gudbjörn Gudbjörnsson, said that he believes the Dutch actions are a breech of the European Economic Agreement, which clearly states that goods should flow freely through the area. The Police spokeswoman seemed to admit as much when she said that all papers were in order.

It should be stressed that whaling is done by a private company, Hvalur hf. It is not state owned, nor does the general public have any hand in running the company. Still Greenpeace sends a plea of hostile action against the Icelandic public in general on its webpage: “Iceland makes far more from tourism than whaling. Pledge not to visit until whaling ends.”

The actions of a small group of Dutch activists, that can commit illegal acts with the apparent blessing of Dutch activities, brings up questions on the general hostility, that common Icelanders sense coming from the Netherlands government. The obligations of Landsbanki, a privately owned bank, are been forced upon the Icelandic general public, even though they had no way of stopping the frivolous owners and managers in their actions. Holland has repeatedly stopped the International Monetary Fund from reviewing the rescue plan that Iceland so badly needs for its recovery.

It is also the view of several Icelandic politicians that as time has passed, it is now the Dutch politicians who block an acceptable agreement between Iceland and the UK and Holland on Icesave. It did not make it easier for the Icelandic negotioators, when it was revealed that the British and Dutch governments would have been making money of the high interest rate, in the deal that was rejected by 98% of Icelandic voters in March.

The latest incident in Rotterdam does nothing to ease the already tense atmosphere between the two countries. Government officials often complain that their Dutch counterparts show arrogance and are much more difficult to deal with than Gordon Brown, a most unpopular figure in Iceland after putting the country on a list of terrorists. He is not considered likely to add the Dutch “activists” to that list.

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