Former Prime Minister of Iceland Geir H. Haarde said the Independence Party had made “serious mistakes” when the banks were privatized six years ago and apologized for his part in the matter in his keynote speech at the party’s 38th general meeting yesterday.
Geir H. Haarde. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
“By letting go of the strategy that had been decided for dispersed ownership, we made serious mistakes,” Haarde said in his speech, according to Fréttabladid. “I’m partly responsible for this matter being handled the way it was at that time and it is right that I apologize for those mistakes. That is what I’d like to do now.”
Haarde then traced the fall of the banks, Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir, in October 2008 back to those mistakes, arguing that if the Independence Party had maintained their original policy on dispersed ownership, the banks would not have been as foolhardy and would not have taken as many risks as they did.
Haarde also discussed Iceland’s future and relationship with Europe in his speech, saying that he hoped that the Independence Party European Committee’s proposal on a double referendum on the European Union will be accepted—one measure on whether membership discussions should take place and the other measure on whether Iceland should join the EU. The proposal will be presented today.
“There are few things more important during these times, regardless of what party people support, regardless of how people express their political ideals, to rise up from the political trenches and unite on the issues that matter the most: To ensure a robust economy in both the long and short term, a flourishing community and a high standard of living,” Haarde added, Morgunbladid reports.
According to Fréttabladid, around 1,900 members of the Independence Party attended yesterday’s meeting, which made it the best-attended general meeting in the party’s 80-year history. Haarde said in his speech that he believed the party was in a good position despite some temporary resistance.
Haarde is leaving politics, at least temporarily, and will step down as chairman of the Independence Party on Sunday. On Monday he will travel to the Netherlands for cancer treatment.
Three men have announced their candidacy for chairman, Bjarni Benediktsson, Kristján Thór Júlíusson and Snorri Ásmundsson.