Iceland Donates ISK 130 Million in Emergency Aid to Ukraine

Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

The Icelandic government has decided to send ISK 130 million [just over $1 million; €929,000] in emergency financial assistance to Ukraine via the World Bank. RÚV reports that Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir announced the additional funding after attending a meeting last week in Washington, D.C. wherein international leaders met to attend the World Bank’s roundtable on Ukraine. The meeting was scheduled to coincide with the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

This is Iceland’s second major emergency aid donation to Ukraine. In February, Iceland committed €1 million to humanitarian support in Ukraine, and also made a €200,000 contribution to NATO’s Trust Fund for the Ukraine Professional Development Programme.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Smyhal and Minister of Finance Sergei Marchenko were both present at the meeting and emphasized Ukraine’s urgent need for financial assistance, both in order to maintain basic services and also for reconstruction efforts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an address remotely.

In her own address, Þórdís Kolbrún expressed Iceland’s desire to contribute as much as possible to support Ukraine in its efforts to repel Russia’s invasion of their country. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and freedom,” she said, reemphasizing that Iceland continues to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

Former PM Haarde Takes Position on Board of World Bank

Former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde will step down as Iceland’s ambassador to the United States on July 1, 2019 and will take up a position as a representative for the Nordic and Baltic states on the board of the World Bank, Kjarninn reports. Geir’s new position was announced on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Friday.

The announcement came almost ten years to the day since Geir notified the nation of the gravity of Iceland’s financial situation in a televised address. He concluded his statement with the words “Guð blessi Ísland” (May God bless Iceland). This marked the beginning of the economic collapse and in the next few days, Iceland’s banks crashed one by one.

Geir was later tried by the High Court in Iceland for violations of the constitution. This was a historic trial, marking the first time an Icelandic minister was indicted for misconduct in office.

He was acquitted of three charges, but was convicted of one, namely, not having held cabinet meetings on important matters in the lead-up to the economic collapse.

The majority opinion in the conviction stated that when Geir became aware of the risk to which the Icelandic banks were exposed, which could jeopardize financial stability in the country and thus the position of the state treasury, he should have realized that it had to be immediately investigated whether this information was true. Information on impending danger which Geir knew about, or was bound to know about, should have been reason for him as prime minister to discuss it at a cabinet meeting, if not immediately then as soon as possible.

Geir later referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he had not received a fair trial, and also stating that the Icelandic parliament’s decision to press charges against him was made on political grounds. The court ruled, however, that Geir’s rights were not violated in the landmark case.

Geir has been Iceland’s ambassador to the US since 2015. He will be succeeded by Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, who is currently Iceland’s permanent representative to the United Nations.