Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson delivered his keynote speech from Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, last night. The speech was broadcast live on RÚV television, followed by discussion by members of parliament. That discussion was then followed by a lively discussion on Facebook where MPs, as well as their followers, discussed highlights from the evening. The latter discussion appeared to many somewhat livelier than the one broadcast. Newspaper articles covering the Alþingi debate included a variety of subjects, including refugees, meditation and Angry Birds.
First, the keynote speech:
The prime minister stressed that news of the sufferings of refugees should remind us Icelanders how grateful we can be for the life “our good and peaceful land has secured us, so far from the world’s battlefield,” RÚV reports. It’s of utmost importance, he continued, that “we and other nations respond to this crisis as well as possible.” As an example, he suggested looking into whether the adoption of children from Syria and other war-torn countries could be simplified.
Sigmundur then went on to discuss the government’s economic success this term: “There are few examples of countries’ recovering as quickly economically as Iceland has done in the past two years.” He said that unlike most other European nations, Iceland is no longer accumulating debt, but paying it down. He stated that allocations toward healthcare have never been greater, and that in all likelihood, we’ll be able to do better in years to come.
He spoke about the upswing in the tourism industry and the importance of not letting short-term profit, accompanied by downtrodden nature, rule.
Discussion followed in which leaders of most parties stressed the importance of the refugee issue. One highlight was MP Árni Páll Árnason’s speech, which began by asking all MPs to close their eyes and imagine a trip to Vatnajökull glacier, crowded with people, as reported by RÚV. The exercise continued in an effort to demonstrate Iceland’s ability to make a difference.
Another highlight occurred when MP Guðmundur Steingrímsson, former leader of Bright Future gave his response to the PM’s speech. At that point, according to Vísir, the TV camera zoomed in on the prime minister, who was seen concentrating hard on the screen of his smartphone. He showed little interest in what Guðmundur had to say about the keynote speech. Not long after, Facebook was filled with suggestions regarding what might have preoccupied the prime minister at that moment. One person guessed it might have been the ever-popular game Angry Birds.
MP Össur Skarphéðinsson and Svanhildur Hólm, assistant to the minister of finance, could not conceal their disappointment with the discussion, according to Vísir. Össur called it the blandest material Alþingi can offer and two hours of hopeless TV programming. Svanhildur called the program “long and boring.” If the rules for discussion were changed and time for discussion shortened, Össur believes things would improve. “That,” he said, “could be good TV. Most importantly, maybe, it wouldn’t bore anyone to death.”