Vooral Gerard van Vliet, who represents some 250 Dutch citizens who lost money in Icesave, told the Grapevine that the Icelandic government is obliged to pay back all the money that was lost in the collapse of Icesave, and that the Icelandic government is short on ideas.
Van Vliet met with representatives of the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Prime Minister’s office last week. The result of the meeting was, in his words, “astonishing.”
“They’re sitting opposite you, telling you that they’re not aware of what’s going on, and not aware of the fact that they’re responsible, and not aware that something has to be done – well, I think that’s a lousy game,” he told us in part. He added that he was told that Iceland didn’t ask for additional help from the UK and Holland because Iceland didn’t want to “display weakness”.
When we asked Van Vliet what his thoughts were on the notion that the average Icelander is not a bank manager and doesn’t see why their taxes should pay back Icesave, he replied, “That’s the bad part of democracy. The banks didn’t grow by themselves; they were allowed to do it. The government closed its eyes, the Central Bank closed its eyes, the bank managers closed their eyes, the shareholders closed their eyes. So, of course you can’t blame the guy on the street for things getting this far, but you can blame everyone else. And one of the bad things about democracy is you’re responsible, all in all, for the things being done in parliament. It’s lousy, but that’s what happens.”
Van Vliet did have some solutions in mind, however, as to how Iceland could generate income. He proposed, for example, an undersea cable exporting electricity from Iceland to Europe, pointing out that there already exists such lines between Norway, the UK and the Netherlands, and that the Netherlands would even be prepared to fund the project.
When asked if he had anything in particular that he wanted to say to the Icelandic people as a whole, he said in part, “First all, I’m sorry to say, but some countrymen f*cked you up, and you have to bear the responsibility for that. That’s democracy. You have to understand that. It’s not a question of personal responsibility but collective responsibility. And take that responsibility to the government. So if the prosecutor says, ‘We won’t go after [former Central Bank chairman Davíð] Oddsson, and we won’t go after [former Prime Minister Geir H.] Haarde,’ then that’s your responsibility, and the Icelanders should start a new pots-and-pans revolution to get those responsible punished.”