U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir struggled to find common ground concerning what poses the greatest threat to the arctic, gender equality and the rights of queer people during yesterday’s meeting. The controversy surrounding Pence’s visit manifested itself in protests at Austurvöllur and hoisted rainbow flags around town.
Climate and equality
The day of Mike Pence’s visit to Iceland came and went and overall was deemed to be a victory for Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the Icelandic nation. Whilst Mike Pence emphasised the importance of economic ties between the two nations and long term strategic relations, Katrín made clear that the greatest threat to the arctic is not of a military nature but is posed by the climate crisis—a major claim against Pence, who refuses to believe that climate change is man-made. Katrín also insisted on talking about gender equality and the rights of queer people as they are key issues of her government policy. The actual conversation was closed off from the media, but the Prime Minister later remarked that the Vice President, “[discussed] the issues from his point of view, especially the equality issues”, as Rúv reported.
It’s no secret that Mike Pence believes homosexuality is a choice and the wrong choice at that—an outrageous idea to a nation that celebrates diversity. Among other issues—such as the increased presence of the U.S. military in Keflavík—this caused many Icelanders to protest in a “Party Against Pence” on Austurvöllur. In another protest, the company Advania Iceland hoisted six rainbow flags right across the street from Höfði house, where Pence met the Mayor of Reykjavik Dagur B. Eggertsson earlier that day, as The Grapevine reported.
Military jets vs. bikes
During the meeting, Dagur showed Pence around Höfði while talking about disarmament and peace. The subject seems interesting in light of how many security measures were taken around the area, with roadblocks in place and snipers on the roof. In contrast to the Vice President, who arrived in a military jet and was escorted by a convoy, the Mayor of Reykjavik came to the meeting by bike—a choice perhaps made because the roadblocks didn’t allow other vehicles, or maybe just a subtle demonstration of the Icelandic nation’s peaceful nature.
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland, who had hopes that the US Vice President would get a sense of Icelandic values during his stay, had those certainly fulfilled. Mike Pence did not give an interview after his meeting with Katrín Jakobsdóttir, but thanked her for the hospitality. He left Iceland later that night. What his actual impression after the visit was seems impossible to tell. However, the day left many Icelanders feeling proud about standing their ground for sure.
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