Independence Party Chief supports Joint Icesave-Effort Skip to content

Independence Party Chief supports Joint Icesave-Effort

Bjarni Benediktsson, Chairman of the Independence Party, says that British and Dutch leaders show Icelanders arrogance. He claims in an interview with Fréttabladid that the negotiations committees for those countries in the Icesave-case have been very rough. According to Benediktsson, the government of Iceland in not in step with the nation. “Now the IMF (International Monetary fund) seems to be getting more flexible towards Iceland.” He also says that he is willing to continue cooperating with the government in trying to reach an equitable solution.

It seems unlikely that an agreement will get through Althingi, Iceland’s Parliament, unless the Independence Party supports it. There is talk that the radical wing of the Left Green party should be appeased by former Minister of Health, Ögmundur Jónasson, rejoining the government. This would probably change nothing, since nobody believes that Jónasson can be bought to follow the party line.

In the interview, Benediktsson criticizes the leaders of the Icelandic government, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir and Finance Minister Steingrímur Sigfússon, for constantly talking about how terrible the situation in Iceland will be unless an agreement is reached. “This is not the way to behave at the same time as [the Icelandic negotiation team] is looking for the best solution for the nation.”

Benediktsson has repeatedly said that he felt it was in Iceland’s interest to seek a negotiated solution. However, should that be impossible to reach a reasonable accord Iceland must consider a legal solution.

“It now seems that the IMF is getting ready to pay out the promised loan to Iceland. This is what I read into the declarations of the General Secretary of the IMF and the Norwegian Foreign Minister. I find it very difficult to understand why other nations, that are not part of the dispute, agree to postponing our loan from the IMF. Here I am first and foremost looking to the Nordic countries. They are in fact key to the solution of the problem because as soon as the indicate that they will keep their promise of a loan, regardless of the Icesave-dispute, then we can get our loans from the IMF.”

This argument has been gaining ground in recent days. Rather than the Nordic countries try to press Iceland into an agreement by withholding loans, they should reverse their position, like the Norwegians seem to have done, thereby pushing Holland and the UK towards an agreeable solution.

Benediktsson says that there is no reason for a new target for the Icelandic negotiation team. When the current round started, a few weeks before the referendum, a sensible approach had been taken. He is not willing to reveal what the goals are, because the negotiations are sensitive. The original goals have been modified after the negotiations started, he says. “We originally offered to guarantee the 10% which the Landsbanki assets might not cover, but take no loan and pay no interest. This offer was turned down and the two nations offered some years of no interest.” Benediktsson says that the nations are not in agreement on the real cost of the nations because of the voluntary payment to deposit owners. “Either we reach an agreement or the whole matter will go to court. The question would be whether the state had some legal obligation to guarantee the deposit insurance fund. I believe we can’t lose that case.”

“The reason why we agreed to negotiations was that we thought a fair settlement would be preferable to our fullest demands in court. However, our counterparts have never shown any fairness. Still, we are trying to force an agreeable solution.” When asked if the negotiations will be concluded in a few days or weeks, Benediktsson says that he does not want to predict that they end in failure. He says he supports efforts of the negotiations committee, lead by Lee Bucheit, who he says has handled the case well. The opposition is still willing to carry on the cooperation with the government on a solution to the Icesave-case.

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