Today at 16:00, singer and icon Björk Guðmundsdóttir held a press conference at the Nordic House in Reykjavík to address the sale of Icelandic energy company HS Orka to the Canadian company Magma Energy.
Björk, who has been outspoken about environmental affairs and the protection of Iceland’s resources for a long time, recently teamed up with assistant to Eva Joly Jón Þórisson and writer Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir to write a formal proposal to parliament to initiate an open discourse on the sale of the company and to address that the interests of the public are being taken into consideration. They submitted the proposal on July 12 along with a list of questions that they wish the Icelandic government, parliament and public to address before the sale is completed.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Björk stated that the sale of HS Orka smelled like “the remnants of corruption brought on by the collapse of the banks.” She went on to say that she hopes the government will cancel the contract so that she can turn her attention back to writing music.
The Grapevine was lucky enough to attend today’s press conference. We found out once we got there that it was a very exclusive press-only affair and watched dozens of bewildered people turned away from entering, as Björk was also set to give a short performance after the statements were read.
The conference was held entirely in Icelandic and did not open the floor for a Q&A session. Jón Þórisson spoke first, introducing their statement and the proposal that was delivered to the Public Representative of Icelandic Parliament last Tuesday. He summarised the information booklet which was given to the press, posing moral and ethical questions about the sale of Iceland’s natural resources to Magma Energy and urged everyone to sign the petition at orkuaudlindir.is. It should be noted that today alone, the petition has gained 2000 signatures.
The proposal states: “In light of the fact that this process of sale has been both controversial and opaque, we feel that it is urgent that the Althing Ombudsman review this process and investigate whether public interest has been compromised in any way and whether administrative procedure in this matter has been of both sufficient legality and sufficient quality.”
It goes on to list seven major arguments for reviewing the sale of HS Orka, such as the use of shell-corporation Magma Energy Sweden AB as a means of circumventing laws against non-European companies owning shares in Icelandic companies, the question of influx of capital into the Icelandic market resulting from the sale, the lack of transparency and information regarding Magma Energy’s shareholders and the security of such a sale taking place in Iceland’s very fragile economic environment.
After Jón spoke, Björk took the floor to outline the list of questions that they put forth in their proposal to the government (read the full list of questions in English here). She delivered the questions with a powerful and emotional tone, barely needing a microphone at all to convey how deeply she is affected by this matter. She called for a proper investigation into the sale and the interests of Magma Energy in Iceland, as well as questioned whether the deal is in line with Icelandic laws. She raised the question as to why only Magma was sold shares, even though many foreign companies expressed interest in buying Iceland’s natural resources.
She ended on a particularly emotional tone. “Everything has changed in the Twenty-First Century,” she said, “We have to stop using oil and start using renewable energy. What will our children think of our actions today?”
Björk then closed the conference by a short performance, accompanied only by a piano. Dressed in a beautiful teal crepe-dress, she performed Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu by Jón Ásgeirsson, Vertebrae by Vertebrae and Oceania, which she wrote and performed for the opening ceremonies at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
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