Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, was in Slovakia early this evening and gave a letter to his counterpart there to say that Iceland was no longer one of the countries seeking EU membership and that negotiations would not be taken up in the future either. Slovakia currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
But this was not something that had been decided by the parliamentary Althing. Oh no. It had been decided at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Not surprisingly, the reaction to the statement has been huge. Opposition members of the Althing said the topic should have been discussed at the Althing before a decision was taken – this actually happened a year ago but no decision was made at the time. Even an ex-Independent Party MP and Education Minister, Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir, said on Facebook that surely the ruling coalition had enough members in the Althing to ensure that the decision would be passed. She called the decision process cowardly.
Katrin Jakobsdottir from the Left-Greens said that parliamentary rules had effectively been broken and that the matter would be brought up at the Althing, “whether or not the government likes it or not”. And Birgitta Jonsdottir from the Pirate Party said that this should herald the beginning of the end for this government.
A demonstration was called for 8 p.m. tonight (the news broke at 6 p.m.) and apparently about 200 people turned up – not bad, considering the short notice given. Another demonstration has been called for 2 p.m. Sunday.
Update: The EU says that the letter has been taken into account but that the accession process has not been formally halted.
The only company that was hunting minke whales last year off Iceland, IP Utgerd, has been reprimanded by the Directorate of Fisheries for bypassing the weighing of the majority of the minke whales they caught last season. Out of the 24 whales they caught, 14 were not recorded. The man behind the company concerned, Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, says that whales are recorded by number caught rather than weight, and that after years of scientific whaling the weight of minke whales should be known. They say they notify the Directorate electronically as soon as a whale is killed. Apparently the unwanted parts of a minke whale are discarded at sea, and only the meat and blubber are brought to land.
If the company bypasses the weighing machine once more within the next two years, they will have their licence retracted. Which could mean that no more minke whales would be caught.
In point of fact, IP Utgerd only utilized 10% of their quota, as they were allowed to hunt 240 whales. Consequently, they have had to import minke whale meat from Norway to supply restaurants and the like within Reykjavik.
UPDATE: Apparently, Japan had to destroy whale meat it got from Norway last year because it contained excessive levels of insecticide. No one thought of testing the Norwegian whale meat imported to Iceland for insecticide, and there is no guarantee that any remaining meat – if there is any – will be tested now.
The volcanic eruption at Holuhraun in Iceland, which had been going for six months, finally stopped on Friday. BUT that’s not the end of the story. Poisonous gases are still being released, including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and an eruption under the glacier at nearby Barðarbunga is expected. That eruption will probably create floods and ash. Travel restrictions are still in place, and the Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, has just said that more funds will probably need to be allocated to the civil protection team in order to monitor the possibility of subsequent eruptions.
Watch this space!