The new Icesave deal struck between Iceland, the UK and Holland has been met with both optimism and scepticism from Iceland’s politicians and activists.
As reported, the new deal reduces interests rates from 5% for both countries to 3% for Holland and 3.3% for the UK, costing the government some 50 billion ISK (about 328 million euros). According to the official summary of the agreement, “Liability of the state is limited as far as possible and in fact solely limited to (a) payment of interest as it accrues until June 2016, and (b) the portion which has not been recovered from the bank’s estate after that time (the shortfall)”. Most of the debt is going to be paid from Landsbanki’s estate until the end of June 2016. Fuller details can be read in the link.
Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon told RÚV that the agreement was “a major achievement in the resurrection of Iceland.” And the deal is fairer than the previous agreement. However, not all politicians and activists concerned with Icesave are in agreement.
Þór Saari, an MP for The Movement, appears to like the new deal considerably more than the previous one, but isn’t ready to let Steingrímur off the hook. “This is what happens when you let professionals handle things,” he told Fréttablaðið in part. “We should maybe consider [chief Icesave negotiator] Lee Buchheit for minister of finance.”
Minister of Justice Ögmundur Jónasson, an MP for the Leftist-Greens who nonetheless voted against the previous Icesave agreement, remains sceptical. “Before we swallow this whole and approve it, we need to take a better look at this deal,” he told Fréttablaðið. “But this is a very good result, and a far cry from the previous deal.”
Bjarni Benediktsson, chairman of the Independence Party, avoided discussing the contents of the new deal directly, but said instead that there even being a new deal was proof positive that opposition to the previous deal was worth it. At the same time, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, chairman of the Progressive Party, believes the new deal should as well be put up for national referendum.
Ólafur Elíasson, a member of InDefence – one of the most outspoken activist groups against government liability for Icesave – told Fréttablaðið, “If I may speak personally and not on behalf of my organisation, in the two years that I’ve spent working on this matter I still don’t see any logic behind Icelandic taxpayers paying for any of this.”