Icesave in the Hands of Iceland’s President Skip to content

Icesave in the Hands of Iceland’s President

The new Icesave legislation arrived at the residence of President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson for confirmation within an hour after it was passed in the parliament, Althingi, yesterday. Secretary General Örnólfur Thorsson said this is highly unusual.


President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announcing his decision not to sign the last Icesave legislation in January 2010. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

It has not been revealed when the president will decide whether to sign the legislation or refer it to a national referendum; approximately one year ago, it took him six days to decide if the last legislation should be voted on in a referendum, Fréttabladid reports.

This morning more than 37,000 people had signed a petition on, urging the president not to sign the legislation. These are already more signatures than in a petition against the controversial media legislation, which the president refused to sign in 2004.

Usually, the parliament’s employees require one or two days to make a formal legal document out of the bill that was passed. Afterwards the legislation is sent to the minister responsible, which in this case is the finance minister.

At the ministry, papers are prepared to be sent to Bessastadir, the presidential residence, so that they can be formally signed. The minister in question has two weeks to prepare the papers but rarely uses all that time. A representative of the Prime Minister’s Office delivers the papers to Bessastadir.

The president usually confirms legislation the same day that it is delivered or the following day, unless he decides to take some time to reflect on it. There are no regulations stating for how long he can postpone his decision.

The Icesave legislation was passed with 44 votes to 16 yesterday, with three MPs abstaining. The first two amendments suggesting that the legislation be passed on to a national referendum were rejected with a slight majority, with 33 votes against 30.

The Social Democrats were unanimous in their voting. The party’s leader, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, stated those who rejected the new Icesave agreement jeopardized national welfare.

“It is time to conclude this terrible matter which has divided the nation, corrupted our relations with the outside world and caused significant delays in the country’s economic restoration,” the PM declared.

Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, chairman of the Left-Greens, said it was risky not to accept the agreement. Thirteen Left-Green MPs supported the bill but two voted against it, Lilja Mósesdóttir and Ásmundur Dadi Einarsson.

“It is big of people to conclude disputes in agreement but not to continue a purposeless warfare just for the sake of it,” the minister commented.

Eleven of the opposition Independence Party’s 16 MPs voted for the legislation, one abstained and four voted against it. The party’s chairman, Bjarni Benediktsson, supported the bill, saying it is about solving disputes with neighboring countries with negotiation.

“It is not as if we face the option to avoid paying all claims or else accept this conclusion. That is a misstatement,” Benediktsson reasoned.

Two MPs of the Progressive Party abstained while seven voted against the Icesave legislation, the party’s chairman Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson among them.

“The government’s entire argumentation in this matter has been proven wrong,” he stated, urging the president to consider whether he should pay attention to politicians, “who have been wrong in all items of this case for more than two years.”

All three MPs of The Movement voted against the bill. “I can never accept that private debts are relocated to the public,” Birgitta Jónsdóttir commented.

The Icesave legislation that was approved by parliament yesterday includes a state guarantee on the repayment of the minimum deposit insurance of Landsbanki’s Icesave accounts in the UK and the Netherlands.

New loan terms, which differ significantly from the terms of the legislation vetoed in a national referendum in Iceland on March 6, 2010, were agreed upon by the negotiating committees of the three countries late last year.

Click here to read more about the terms of the new agreement and here to read more about yesterday’s voting.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!

Share article


Recommended Posts