Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson told Sky News that Iceland will never forgive former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his response to the collapse of Landsbanki, and once again expressed misgivings about Iceland joining the European Union.
The president, in an interview with Sky News, had some candid thoughts to share about Brown:
“The Gordon Brown government decided, to its eternal shame, to put the Icelandic government on a list of terrorist states and terrorist phenomena. We were there together with al Qaeda and the Taliban on that list. We have not forgotten that in Iceland. Gordon Brown will be long remembered in my country for centuries to come, long after he has been completely forgotten in Britain.”
The president then went on to say that the old management of Landsbanki has found the funds to “pay back to those who have deposits and the British authorities everything which can be reasonably required.”
Actually, only half of the Icesave debt has been paid back.
The president also commented on Iceland currently being in European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) court, facing charges of having violated an international agreement by not letting foreign depositors in Landsbanki withdraw their money, while letting Icelanders do so. The president assured Sky News that “it will not lead to any financial obligations or transactions of any sort.”
In fact, a judgement against Iceland could cost the country up to 400 billion ISK (2.3 billion euros), should the UK and Holland decide to file for damages against Iceland.
On the subject of the European Union, the president expressed doubts that Iceland even wants to join the EU, adding, “We have decided to take a pause, not to move forward at all in the coming months, and then to revisit the issue sometime later,” omitting the fact that this pause is due to parliamentary elections.
He also said: “There is no strong political force in my country arguing that we need to finish the negotiations quickly because we want to join the European Union.” Apparently the president does not consider the Social Democrats – the political party which leads the ruling coalition of the government, which initiated EU accession talks and wants Iceland to join the EU – to be a strong political force.
The president has expressed doubts about the benefits of joining the EU before. In 2010, Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson had to clarify for the foreign press that the Icelandic government does, in fact, want to join the EU, after the president expressed his misgivings about the EU to the Global Times.
The president is currently in Switzerland to speak at the World Economic Forum, where Gordon Brown will also be a guest speaker.