Big Changes In The Pipe For Iceland's Government - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Big Changes In The Pipe For Iceland’s Government

Published January 12, 2017

Photos by
Art Bicnick

The Foreign Minister does not want Iceland to join the European Union; the Justice Minister wants to reform the court system; and the Environmental Minister is bringing the hammer down on heavy industry. These are amongst the changes Iceland’s new government wants to put into effect.

Iceland’s new government formally took power yesterday. Led by the Independence Party with the participation of the Reform Party and Bright Future, the question on everyone’s mind is what, exactly, this government is going to do differently.

RÚV reports that Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson told reporters that while the government aims to hold a parliamentary vote some time this term on whether or not to continue accession talks with the EU, he is personally opposed to joining. He points out that Iceland is already participating in EFTA, EEA, and Schengen, which he believes calls into question the necessity of even being in the EU.

Meanwhile, Vísir reports that Iceland’s new Minister of Justice, Sigríður Á. Andersen, told reporters that amongst the first projects she wants to dive into is establishing an appellate court in Iceland. As it is now, Iceland’s court system is comprised of district courts and a Supreme Court. As such, this puts a tremendous workload on the Supreme Court to handle all appeals cases, and legal experts have remarked for many years now that Iceland sorely needs an appellate court system.

Perhaps the most significant piece of news concerns Iceland’s new Minister for the Environment, Björt Ólafsdóttir. Vísir reports that she took a very clear stance on what her role is; in particular, with regards to heavy industry. Björt told reporters “the government will no longer make concessions to large companies with tax money to pollute this country.” Here, she was referring to a proposed silicon metals plant in Helguvík. Björt told reporters that such plants pollute a great deal, saying that “this chapter in Icelandic history is closed.”

As reported, the joint platform of this government places emphasis on “balance and foresight”. Health care will be a priority, the platform states, with the goal to ensure that everyone has access to good health care regardless of income level, as well as to attract investors to help develop Iceland’s infrastructure.

The response from members of the opposition parties has been decidedly pessimistic. Progressive Party chair Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson told reports he fears that people living outside the capital area will be ignored, while MPs for the Social Democrats and the Left-Greens are disappointed that the joint platform is “vague and generally worded”.

That said, policy positions of individual ministries will most likely come into focus over the coming days and weeks.

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