From Iceland — Vinstrihreyfingin–Grænt Framboð ("The Left-Green Movement") Interviewed

Vinstrihreyfingin–Grænt Framboð (“The Left-Green Movement”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013

Vinstrihreyfingin–Grænt Framboð (“The Left-Green Movement”) Interviewed

1.    Briefly describe your party’s general agenda in one sentence.
Our movement is to the left and green—we emphasize equality and social justice, the environment, pacifism and women’s liberation. So the scale from left to right is not sufficient.
2.    Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
Our movement was founded in 1999 and was the first political force in Iceland to put environmental issues at the core of its agenda. In addition, it has been the only party that has focused on pacifism, feminism and social justice. We have managed to bring all of these issues on the agenda for voters, and have achieved some success in doing so. As a result of our policy we were the only political movement that warned and fought against the malignant growth of the Icelandic economy that led to the crash in 2008. At the beginning of 2009 we formed a new coalition government with the Social Democrats with the task of leading the redevelopment of Iceland after the collapse. In this task, there has been significant progress and now are brighter times ahead in Iceland.
3.    Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
We have a good relationship with our Nordic sister parties, SF in Denmark, Tjóðveldi in the Faroe Islands, Vasemmistoliitto in Finland, Inuit Ataqatigiit in Greenland, SV in Norway and Vänsterpartiet in Sweden.
4.    What do you consider the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
Our priority is to strengthen society’s healthcare, welfare and education systems. In order to do that, we must guarantee equal and stable economic gain on a sustainable basis. We intend to do that with continued development of a diverse economy with focus on innovation, hi-tech and creative industries. We stress that the development of the employment market and the economy must be sustainable so that the resources of nature and society aren’t overexploited.  
5.    What do you admire about the current coalition government and what it accomplished in the last four years? What do you dislike? What will you do better?
Our greatest achievement has been to regain Iceland’s economic sovereignty without sacrificing our welfare system and our natural resources. Even though we have succeeded in this it wasn’t easy and the people of Iceland have shown great resilience over the past few years.
6.    Was the financial crisis in 2008 and the problems Iceland now faces in some way caused by government policy and action or the lack thereof? Is your party in some way responsible for this? Why or why not?
The financial crisis was a direct result of government policy, the same neoliberal policy as Reagan and Thatcher implemented in the US and UK in the ‘80s. The Left-Green Movement is the only political party that always warned and fought against this policy, a policy which eventually led to the crash in 2008.
7.    Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
We plan to do this with continued development of a diverse economy with a focus on innovation, hi-tech and creative industries. We stress that the development of the employment market and the economy must be sustainable so that the resources of nature and society aren’t overexploited.
8.    Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
We have already strengthened regulation of the financial industry; however, the regulatory framework is still under review.
9.    Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
We have distributed the tax burden in a more just way than previous governments have, by moving it from the lower-income to the higher-income. Thus, we have contributed to increased equality, which has been one of our main goals politics.
10.    Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
Yes, we support the króna and believe that policymakers should work to ensure the stability of the króna. However, we are willing to look at the possibilities of linking to the króna to another currency.
11.    Do you support the newly passed law removing an expiration date from Iceland’s capital controls? Will your party work to lift these controls? Does it have a timeframe in mind?
a) Yes, all the major political parties supported the bill when it was passed in parliament. The proposals came from a bipartisan committee on the removal of capital controls.
b) Yes, but the Icelandic economy must be mindful of the dangers of the inflow of “hot money.”
c) We have no specific timeframe in mind. The controls can be lifted when it poses no danger to the Icelandic economy.
12.    Do you believe that the collapse was more than an economic one? If so, what else failed in 2008 and does it still need fixing?
Yes, it was also a collapse of the ideology that life should revolve around making money. I think we have changed our way of thinking since then. For example, recent evidence suggests that Icelanders now spend more time with their family and enjoying arts and culture.
13.    How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
It can do that by increasing equality and prosperity in society. To achieve that we must strengthen the basic framework of the health care, welfare and education systems and guarantee equal and stable economic gain on a sustainable basis.
14.    What is your stance on Iceland’s application to the European Union? Do you ultimately think Icelanders’ interests would be best served by being part of this coalition?
We oppose Iceland’s membership to the EU, but still believe that it is important that the nation is given the chance to take a position on the matter. Therefore we have issued a resolution stating that membership talks should be given a strict timeframe from the start of the new term, such as one year after the election, and that the agreement be voted on in a national referendum.
15.    What is your stance on the new constitution that was called for in the wake of Iceland’s financial crisis? Are you for or against pushing the current draft through parliament? Why or why not?
We support the draft. It is based on an extensive and open dialogue and the basis of it has already been approved by the people in an advisory referendum. Having said that, we have been willing to find a way to reach a broad consensus in the parliament on the outcome. Such resolution has not been reached yet.
16.    Will your party do something to protect the land and its resources? Is a more stringent regulative framework needed to ensure conservation of the environment?
One of our core values is the struggle for increased respect for the land and its resources. The legislative framework is lacking in many ways, and over the past four years we have taken several important steps towards improving it. These steps include passing the Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources in Iceland, which aims to balance the scales between nature conservation and energy utilisation. We’ve also put forward a new law for nature conservation, which has been in great need of an update. We’ve increased funding for improving facilities at popular tourist attractions, aiming to relieve pressure on the fast growth of tourism. But we still have a long way to go to ensure that the land and its resources are treated with the respect they deserve.
17.    Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
Gender equality will be a problem until it has been eliminated, and therefore remains at the top of our agenda. Even though the situation is better in Iceland than in most societies, we have not reached equality. The most visible injustice is the gender wage gap and representation in business, media and politics. We also have some way to go in eliminating less visible injustice like gender-based violence.
18.    Where do you stand on immigration issues?
We want to build an open society in which all residents have the same right and opportunity.
19.    Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
20.    Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
I believe a socially minded government with participation of the Left-Greens is the best option for Icelandic society.

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