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Iceland on the EU fast track?

by Magnifico Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 03:14:12 PM EST

With the collapse of its banking system and currency, Iceland is quickly running out of options. After months of protest, Icelanders ended the rule by the nation's rightwing government of 18 years that was responsible for the economic downfall.

The krona has now somewhat stabilized, but still some in Iceland seek a more stable currency. But what foreign currency will Iceland adopt?

Suggested options have been to adopt the Norwegian krone, the Canadian loonie, the American dollar, or the EU's euro. Before the currency collapse, Icelanders were divided roughly equally over the adoption of the euro, but changing circumstances may mean changing positions on the euro and Icelandic EU membership.

According to The Guardian, Iceland is to be fast-tracked into the European Union.

"The krona is dead. We need a new currency. The only serious option is the euro," said a senior Icelandic official.


The temptation of euro may be strong for this quoted Icelander, but there's no indication if this "senior Icelandic official" is one of the same officials that got their country into their mess in the first place. This seems more like wishful thinking on some officials in Iceland and Brussels more than anything else. According to the article:

The European commission is preparing itself for a membership bid, depending on the outcome of a snap general election expected in May. An application would be viewed very favourably in Brussels and the negotiations, which normally take many years, would be fast-forwarded to make Iceland the EU's 29th member in record time, probably in 2011.

The article goes on to quote Olli Rehn, "the European commissioner in charge of enlargement", suggesting Icelandic membership would coincide with Croatian membership because "The EU prefers two countries joining at the same time rather than individually." Rehn wants Iceland to join the EU.

The news that Iceland is now on the EU fast track is surprising to The Reykjavík Grapevine, a free magazine in English and distributed all over Iceland. In disagreement with The Guardian article, the Grapevine notes:

The article also cites "riots" in Iceland - news which would come as a surprise to anyone living here. In addition, while the article contends that there are "rising expectations" that Iceland will apply for membership, this is contrary to the latest opinion poll on the subject which shows nearly 60% of the country against joining the EU - a figure that has been rising since last October. A referendum on joining the EU is expected some time after elections this spring. If public sentiment against joining the EU continues its current trajectory or even just stays the same, application for membership will be unlikely.

According to the CS Monitor, the Social Democrats want a referendum on EU membership to happen concurrently with the May elections. The paper wrote yesterday that Icelanders are now giving the European Union another look and reports "Public opinion polls suggest two-thirds of Icelanders will vote yes, up from a little over half before October's banking sector collapse."

But Icelandic "fishermen now fear that their nation's financial meltdown will bring about their worst nightmare: that Iceland will join the European Union, surrendering management of its oceans to a distant bureaucracy with a poor conservation record."

Icelanders point to the depleted fisheries of the EU as what will happen to Iceland if the country becomes an EU member. So far, according to the BBC, the matter of applying for EU still undecided. "The Left-Green Party, favoured to win early elections in May, has so far campaigned against joining the EU, mainly because of concerns about fisheries policy."

The CS Monitor notes that while "Iceland has managed its fisheries relatively successfully, in stark contrast to the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which experts say has often failed to control overfishing and the government subsidies that fuel it. Much of the cod eaten in the US and Europe is now caught by the profitable, unsubsidized Icelandic fleet."

Some in Iceland see their country's return to the sea as their possible salvation. Fishing in Iceland may be the best way available to rebuild the Icelandic economy. Icelandic fishing led the country to independence in 1944 and led to the "Cod Wars" against Britain in the 1950s and 1970s.

Iceland could conceivably adopt the euro as its de facto currency without joining the EU, or it could adopt another country's currency as well. However, discussion about EU membership fast tracking seems to me to be premature.

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Iceland could conceivably adopt the euro as its de facto currency without joining the EU, or it could adopt another country's currency as well.

... the kind of currency board systems that the small island nation-states of the Eastern Caribbean rely upon could certainly be established on the basis of the Euro rather than on the basis of the US$.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 03:28:13 PM EST
The Nordic Council will meet in Reykjavik, 27-28 January, when the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2009 will present its programme for the year.

The Nordic Council involves intergovernmental cooperation between Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. In the Sixties there were plans for a Nordic Union similar to the EU. The bonds between the countries remain rather strong.

According to wikipedia, a survey in late 2008 indicated that 80% of Icelanders want to begin admission talks with the EU. But maybe that was then.

Whatever Iceland does, it will be fully agreed with its Nordic partners.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 03:58:43 PM EST
If my favorite Icelandic blogger can be used as an indicator, thoughts on EU membership may be vacillating. Alda commented on 13 January:

I'm of the opinion that the krona should go. I'm perhaps not well informed enough to make a judgment about what should replace it, but the euro seems to make sense. That said, I'm not entirely convinced that joining the EU is a good idea (I vacillate on the issue) so perhaps it would be just as good to adopt another currency, like the USD or the Norwegian krona.

The poll at Vísir from 26 January cited in The Reykjavík Grapevine said the majority of nearly 60 was opposed to EU membership.

If the EU wants Iceland as a member country, then I think the Icelanders are open to listening to how it can help them. But, I think they are understandably wary... not because of the EU, but because of krona's collapse.

And, according to Alda, the idea of Iceland adopting another currency was floated before the IMF offer as a means to avoid having to take the IMF bailout. The rightwingers in charge of the Icelandic government opted for the IMF 'answer'.

by Magnifico on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 04:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yours truly wrote a diary on Nordek (the proposed Nordic Union) a while back.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:50:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, given the fact that, according to Statistics Iceland, 76% of its exports go to EU countries (and 53% of its imports come from the same countries), it seems that adopting the Euro makes sense...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 04:25:44 PM EST
Those numbers are lower than I'd expect and the EU isn't yet the Eurozone.

Adopting the Euro does make sense for Iceland. The question is how it wants to do this. Should we give it some Monaco-like status if it doesn't want to join the EU? Maybe it's a bit too big for that.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At roughly 320,000 people, Iceland is about 10x more populous than Monaco at about 32,000 people.
by Magnifico on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... population of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the EC dollar, or Barbados and the Bajan dollar, both of which are currency board systems.

Not sure what it'd be called, though ... "Icelandic Euro" is a lot more confusing than "EC dollar".

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 10:57:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could just call it the new krona.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 06:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... as Cruzeiro was Brasileiro, abandoning the "spoiled brand" might be more urgent ... since krona is used more widely among Nordic countries, that'd work. It could be some round number of krona and öre that is close to 100 old Icelandic krona to 1 new Icelandic krona, or it could just break with the past and adopt a simple exchange rate, such as 10 new krona per Euro.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 09:15:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They don't need to join the Eurozone or the EU to make the Euro legal tender. Latin American countries have been known to "dollarize" their economy. Hong Kong has no central bank.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:05:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not quite sure why Iceland is being considered for fast-track admission when others have been in the queue for much longer.  Could it be that it is not a Moslem country, or coming from the troubled Balkan region?

Were Bulgaria and Romania ready for admission or were they offered fast-track admission for strategic reasons?  I'm not sure the EU should be about throwing countries a lifeline when they get into economic or political difficulties.  

Adherence to the European ideals underlying the EU requires a cultural change, and I'm not sure Iceland has even begun to consider what adjustments would be required.

We can't complain about the lack of an EU demos on the one hand, and then offer membership to countries for purely opportunistic reasons.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:09:49 PM EST
Regarding adjustments —

The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says Iceland has already adopted two-thirds of EU rules, so its accession talks could go much faster than the five years Croatia has spent negotiating.

But that last 1/3 may be daunting for the Icelanders. For example, Iceland's insistence on whaling?

by Magnifico on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:26:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are going to have to stop whaling.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my opinion, Iceland should stop whaling regardless of its EU membership status.
by Magnifico on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:30:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Iceland is a stable democracy and has been for a long time
  2. Iceland is (normally) rich
  3. Iceland has already adopted two thirds of EU legislation through its membership in the EFTA.

Turkey and Croatia are not in the queue, as far as I know. It's not as if they're ready today. They still have to close a lot of chapters in the negotiating process.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:26:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Iceland on the EU fast track?

But Icelandic "fishermen now fear that their nation's financial meltdown will bring about their worst nightmare: that Iceland will join the European Union, surrendering management of its oceans to a distant bureaucracy with a poor conservation record."

Icelanders point to the depleted fisheries of the EU as what will happen to Iceland if the country becomes an EU member. So far, according to the BBC, the matter of applying for EU still undecided. "The Left-Green Party, favoured to win early elections in May, has so far campaigned against joining the EU, mainly because of concerns about fisheries policy."


The fisheries policy is a disaster, true. Perhaps if Croatia and Iceland join we can tip the balance a bit more towards conservation.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:30:28 PM EST
Unless Iceland get concessions on the fisheries, I don't think membership in the near future is that likely. And, as you said, the Left-Greenies are currently leading in the polls (Left-Greens 32%; SDP 31%; the conservative Independence Party 21%; the liberal Progressive party 8%), and they're not in favour of EU membership.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:48:36 PM EST
I can't see Iceland in the EU, personally.

I think it's much more likely they will adopt the Norwegian Krone in some way and stay in EFTA alongside Norway.

Now that the new Icelandic government is almost exactly the same Red/Green complexion as the Norwegian one, we are seeing Norwegians slipping into Iceland like ferrets down a drainpipe to help them out.

The economies are so similar - energy, maritime products and skills, high tech IP - that the synergies are too great to ignore.

Attention has certainly swung to the Arctic recently - in particular with a view to energy security. Note both the EU and US speakers at the recent

Arctic Frontiers

gig in Tromsø, Norway.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 05:58:53 PM EST
Ah, the arctic. There's an issue. One big power play. I wonder how Iceland and Norway are going to hold up.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 06:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Norway will do just fine. I suspect you might see some conversations with Canada though.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 06:41:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We've been slipping back and forth a long time.  My own ancestry shows that.  As for the current motivation, Norway still has little motivation to join the EU, and its position is stronger and simpler if Iceland stays out as well.
by rifek on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 08:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The article also cites "riots" in Iceland - news which would come as a surprise to anyone living here.

Riot is a code word in the English language press for "(poor) people in crazy or fucked up countries trying to claim something for themselves, who do they think they are, let's not give our kind any idea that this could work"

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 07:03:15 PM EST
I don't know many Icelanders, but the notion that they would riot in support of a political objective seems a bit far fetched to me...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 07:08:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have followed reporting on the 'riots' from several sources. What I have read is that snowballs and eggs were thrown, a Christmas tree was set on fire and a few fireworks were lit.

Apart from that, much noise was made by banging pots, pans and lids together.

And that was it...

 

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 07:24:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 07:26:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They actually threw eggs at the (now former) prime minister.  That may seem pretty tame to us, but all the same it was shocking.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 11:50:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

What is disappointing is that "riots" is being used by The Guardian. Ian Traynor, the Guardian's Europe editor (who is based in Brussels) described the public protests in Iceland as 'riots'. I expect better from The Guardian, but I think Traynor has an agenda.

In an audio blurb he describes:

...there's unprecedented scenes of riots on the streets of Reykjavik. Ya know riot police being deployed and the first government to fall, certainly in Europe, directly as the result of the economic meltdown and financial crash. So this week, Geir Haarde, the prime minister conservative whose, ya know, his party has been running Iceland for 18 years had to stand down...

Now other Guardian writers, such as Valur Gunnarsson in Reykjavik and Mark Tran describe the Icelandic protesters as, well, protesters, but still describes them as "violent". For example, Icelandic PM becomes world's first leader to step down over banking system crisis.

Geir Haarde said as recently as Friday that his coalition would remain in office until early elections, called for 9 May, after violent protests at its handling of Iceland's tottering economy...

After months of rallies outside the parliament building, last week protesters pelted Haarde's car with eggs while riot police used teargas for the first time since 1949.

The protests continued at the weekend despite Haarde's announcement of the early election.

*sigh* It took Icelanders over four months of protests to remove a government that nearly destroyed their country. What the Guardian may or may not understand is the riot police were called out to keep the rightwing government in power, not because of riots and deadly eggs.

For example, here's what Alda from the Iceland Weather Report blog has to say about the tear gas. From an Anatomy of an Icelandic riot:

Apparently a couple hundred people stormed into the lobby of the Central Bank, shouting that they wanted Davíð out. They got past the first set of doors but beyond that was the Viking Squad in full regalia [I can never think about the Viking Squad without laughing inwardly - the whole idea of a Viking Squad in this country has always seemed just so absurd], who kept their cool and calmly warned THE MOB that they'd use tear gas if they didn't behave [they refrained from shouting GAS GAS GAS this time, though, having learned it is the way to lifelong ridicule]. So THE MOB just basically sat down and started singing protest songs.

That was the full extent of the RIOT that the foreign press keeps banging on about.

The powers that be do not want English speakers to know protests work. I'm just disappointed, but not surprised, that the Guardian promotes the lie.

 

by Magnifico on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 07:38:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Riot is a code word in the English language press for "(poor) people in crazy or fucked up countries trying to claim something for themselves, who do they think they are, let's not give our kind any idea that this could work"

You have to admit that it's useful shorthand, then.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Feb 1st, 2009 at 02:43:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Icelandic "fishermen now fear that their nation's financial meltdown will bring about their worst nightmare: that Iceland will join the European Union, surrendering management of its oceans to a distant bureaucracy with a poor conservation record."
 

This cuts to the heart.  If they join the EU they will loose their fisheries, in a process of over-fishing and extermination.  

But that's a mid-term problem.  In the long term the fisheries are unlikely to survive ocean acidification due to increased carbon dioxide.  The only hope long-term is that global economic collapse is so deep that oil use (and production) is shut down world-wide.  

That hope is a bit slender.  They should be thinking about how to make the land itself sustainable.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jan 30th, 2009 at 11:48:18 PM EST
There's not a lot Icelanders can do, in the short run, to become agriculturally sustainable.  During the settlement and for about 200 years after the Icelanders trashed their environment by over-grazing (sheep,) inappropriate cropping (barley,) and deforestation.  Together these removed the ground cover which caused severe soil erosion.  They have been working to recover from the damage but it takes time.  Iceland 'grows' soil very slowly.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 12:17:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, there is a lot they can do. They have geothermal heat, and tons of hydro-power that is cheaper than their humongous wind resource. With hydro-power, they can make H2, and with that they can once again make NH3 and also reduce CO2 (from breweries and sewage treatment facilities) into fuels like MeOH, EtOH and other hydrocarbons. Unlike the past where most of their NH3 was exported as explosive (ammonium nitrate) or fertilizer, maybe they should use more of it as fuel. Some part of the NH3 will also be useful in their hydroponics greenhouses, too.

As to growing things, hydroponics should work really well - especially as they have geothermal heat to keep the plants nice and toasty, and electricity for light as needed. They might also star cultivating algae in warmed water areas with some extra light - food and fuel.

With the NH3 and other H2 derived fuels, they can get rid of most or all of their oil imports, and liberate their shipping from the drag of imported fuel. The same does for their cars, although since it is a small island, maybe electric cars as well as hybrids might be the way to go (I'm not sure how well batteries work when it is really cold out - generally, not good).

Anyway, there's a mini-Keynesian solution for Iceland. Lots more manufacturing, and especially of electricity originated fuels, and of things that use a lot of electricity to make them, like silicon (using imported sand and charcoal). More and more home grown food, so that does not need to be imported. And hopefully, less gambling (or is that bogus investment banking) with the finances of the country. Maybe a "Truth and Reconciliation" effort with respect to the Milton Friedman economics/right wind government that almost flushed that country down the drain.

Nb41

by nb41 on Sun Feb 1st, 2009 at 12:08:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
greatly constructive comment, nb41!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Feb 1st, 2009 at 12:47:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wondered if you were going to speak up!  ;-)

Yes, the Icelanders can increase food production in the ways you describe.  

I'm not so certain it is economically sustaining.

First, there is no way that the methods you describe would be cost effective for grain production.  

Second, Dairy, in Iceland, is primarily sheep with national meat production an off-shoot of dairy.  This is a wash as they can keep doing what they are doing.

Vegetable and Fruit production is the major problem.

I know of no actual hi-tech (hydroponic, etc.) attempt to commercially grow fruits.  One can grow fruit through extensive labor and energy expenditures in a greenhouse-like environment.  Pest infestations (bugs, fungi, diseases, etc) in these environments are a real problem and the affects of these and the affects of pest eradication on the worker's health is a little studied problem.  

"Greenhouse" production of vegetables is similar enough, so there's not much to add.

I know of two full-scale hydroponic 'plants' that commenced operation in the last 10 years to produce vegetables.  Both have closed due to the squeeze of high production costs versus low product income.  

Now, local hydroponic, or other hi-tech, production for local residents owned and operated by local residents is an intriguing option.  The "profit" in these operations is the output (wealth) of the operation: lettuce, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, & so on.  So as long as the operating costs of local production is less than or equal to the cost of purchase of that production at a grocery store the 'plant' is in the black.  The problem here is acquiring the start-up and operational monies needed to get the whole thing running and on its feet financially.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Feb 1st, 2009 at 01:38:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But none of the options you or I mention could be established in less than 3 to 5 years.  Thus, they are not short (within 3 to 5 years) term solutions.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Feb 1st, 2009 at 01:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, the Norwegian Minister for Trade and Industry, Liv Signe Navarsete (SP), states that she is positive to a joint currency with Iceland (NTB).  

According to E24, the suggestion had come from the leader of the Icelandic left/green party, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon (tipped to become Iceland's Minister of Finance).    

The left/green party on Iceland celebrates its 10 year anniversary next week, and have invited all Nordic political party colleagues to Iceland.  Sigfússon is reported to have said that it would be natural to discuss this issue further in during that event.  The Norwegian Minister of Finance, Kristin Halvorsen, has confirmed that she will attend the celebration in Iceland (according to another Norwegian newspaper, Dagsavisen).

I have been waiting for the currency issue to be mentioned in the Norwegian papers.  It is my impression that Norwegian papers have been very careful about reporting on what has been going on in Iceland, but knowing my country's way of doing 'politics', much has been going on behind the scenes. Iceland and Norway are much closer than it is possible to read in European news. So, typically, only when the issue of a potential currency union was brought up by Iceland, would Norwegian politicians and newspapers say or print anything on this topic.  

Could it be that the sudden EU 'fast-track' offer to Iceland came after somebody got a hint of a possible  Norwegian/Icelandic currency union?  I don't know, but I do ponder...

(Apologies for no links - my tribext is not working - it's a pain! I need someone's help...)  

   

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 07:21:31 AM EST
Iceland and Norway have a common link through their shared interests in off-shore fishing.  A quick glance through the internet suggests the EU Fishing Regulations would be disastrous applied, as is, to either country.  The British fishing fleet, to take an obvious example, operates under the 'vacuum 'em up and forget the future' methodology -- guaranteed to destroy the fish stocks.

One half of Icelandic exports (around $12 billion US) are marine products primarily or secondary fish.  Marine products is the rock-bottom basis of the Icelandic economy.  Gutting the future to address the current economic situation is crazy.  

A second common interest that I will only mention - don't know enough to be intelligent about - is Iceland's oil and natural gas potential off the north (?) coast.  Statoil has the knowledge and resources to investigate and develop the region.

From a limited knowledge perspective, it appears an Iceland/Norway Union -- of some kind -- makes a lot of sense while the Iceland/EU connection doesn't.  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 12:36:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with everything you say...
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 12:53:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My ability to read Norwegian (and Swedish and Danish and Icelandic) - never great to begin with - has evaporated over the decades so I have to throw myself on your mercy ...

What is the level of popular support in Norway and Iceland for a more formal link-up between the two countries?  There is (or used to be) strong popular self-identification with Norway on the part of Icelanders but I've got no idea of Norwegians feel toward Iceland.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 02:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can only answer that from what I personally feel, and what my friends, relatives and business colleagues feel: we look upon Icelanders as our relatives across the sea.  I guess the Icelanders feel the same about us...

Does that answer your question?

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 02:24:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll take your word you, your friends, relatives, and your business colleagues are a valid sample of Norwegian Popular Opinion.

:-)

A Report from Iceland says the Left-Greens and Social Democrats are about ready to announce the formation of a new government.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 02:41:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we are quite a representative sample - at least we span the whole political spectrum...:-)

..and, as I'm sure you know, Norwegian society is rather homogeneous...

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 at 03:12:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to ask. Those with a better access on what's going on in Iceland (Solveig, NordicStorm?), can you find anything the likely new government's members said on the Fjarðaál aluminium plant and the Kárahnjúkar dam? Any chance someone would risk a fight with Alcoa for decommissioning, or will facts on the ground be left undisturbed?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 04:18:18 AM EST
I have not seen anything about this issue yet. This is only an interim government, and I guess they have other priorities...

The new PM said focus will be on (re)negotiating the terms with the IMF in order to reduce the interest rate (18%), and getting a new head of the Central Bank.

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 09:35:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Same economic ideology, same outcome, same bankruptcy.

I mean, only now Icelanders are starting to figure out they bought a bill of goods, and now is the time to socialise their losses?

Wonder what the Baltic nations, on a heavy diet of EU-forced austerity and no prospect of Euro membership, must think about Icelanders butting into line with no such austerity...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 08:45:29 AM EST
Aha. So after Hubris must come Nemesis, eh?

They deserve to suffer for their Sins...?

 

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 09:28:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, nemesis after hubris? No. Not so much.

But, after hubris and lack of humility? Very much so.

And asking to be fast-tracked after an epic neo-liberal monetary policy fail for which no wealthy Icelanders have yet paid a suitable price?

No humility in that.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 09:38:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mention of fast track for Iceland came first from the EU, as far as I know.  

I really wonder about this sudden interest from the EU in inviting membership for Iceland.  The EU was not first in the queue to offer help, so what has changed?

It would surprise me if Iceland voted to join.

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 09:53:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We probably don't have to look further than Denmark.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 09:59:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
???  Could you elaborate, please.
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:19:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm thinking Denmark is a nordic country which habitually punches above its weight diplomatically (wtiness Ellemann-Jensen's foreign policy at the break-up of the Soviet Union espeically as regards the Baltic nations, then those nation's entry in Nato as well as the EU).

Add to this Iceland's former relationship to Copenhagen, as well as the somewhat contentious (to many in Danish public opinion) of the way (including timing) that Iceland unilaterally changed that relationship.

Add to this a bit of good old-fashioned Nordic rivalry between Denmark and Norway (known in Denmark as the land of the "happy Danes").

If you're saying Oslo, itself having had the same statute within Denmark which Iceland unliterally ditched in 1944, itself is with some success pitching currency union with the former Danish dependancy, I wouldn't be surprised if this hasn't raised more than a few eyebrows in Copenhagen.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:51:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

If you're saying Oslo, itself having had the same statute within Denmark which Iceland unliterally ditched in 1944, itself is with some success pitching currency union with the former Danish dependancy, I wouldn't be surprised if this hasn't raised more than a few eyebrows in Copenhagen.

Possibly...

I know nothing about what the Norwegian government as a whole is saying to a currency union, except that one minister in the coalition is quoted as saying she would be positive to this (her party is one of the two 'No-to-EU' parties in the present Norwegian government). She also said that no country should be 'forced' to join the EU for financial reasons...

If the latest poll in Iceland is anything to go by, it looks as if they are a long way from the possibility of a 'yes' in a referendum:

Capacent Gallup's poll from January 18 shows that 38.3 percent of Icelanders would like Iceland to join the EU while 37.7 percent are against membership.

             

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:34:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know... I don't really see it. We've been talking with our overseas dependencies about independence for the next best thing to a generation. They're expensive as hell, and no real use (that may change now that there's prospect of serious extractive industries in Greenland, though).

Pseudo-imperial vanity and solidarity with a fellow Nordic people aside, what precisely would we gain by having yet another North Atlantic money sink to subsidise?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 05:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What did Denmark have to gain by having Latvia in Nato and the EU?

This works on multiple levels, and Iceland is not the same as the Faroes or Greenland by any part of the imagination.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 05:46:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Short answer: Greater influence in the Baltic.

Slightly longer answer: Greater influence in the Baltic, and the amusement, in some quarters, of poking Russia in the eye.

Which was more important to the decision is something I can't really tell. There are actually sound reasons to seek to unify the Baltic under a single political entity. It's a very small pond, so if someone screws up, everybody around it is going to feel it.

And Denmark has a special interest in what goes on at the Baltic shoreline, because we are responsible for the single most treacherous strip of water between the Bothnian Bay and the Atlantic proper. And every once in a while, some dumb fuck skimps on maintenance or cuts corners with crew training or something like that, and we get an oil spill on our coast. So from Denmark's point of view, getting the Baltic countries into a legal framework that takes a dim view of drunk captains and single-hulled oil tankers is a worthwhile exercise in and of itself.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 06:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are actually sound reasons to seek to unify the Baltic under a single political entity. It's a very small pond, so if someone screws up, everybody around it is going to feel it.

A recent hobby horse of mine is to look at water basins as natural geopolitical units.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:09:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the smaller they are, the more sense it makes. The Baltic makes a lot more sense than - say - the Med, because 1) it involves fewer people and 2) those people are a lot closer together, so even a single - say - overfishing fishing fleet or poorly maintained oil tanker causes a serious impact on everyone around it.

Which is not to say, of course, that unifying the Med doesn't make sense...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:18:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's see...

IceNews.IS: Social Democrat MP in Iceland EU plea (January 26, 2009)

"We cannot waste any time in applying for the European Union," said Arni Pall Arnason, Social Democrat MP in the Icelandic parliament on Thursday. He said that any future government must be ready to completely dissect the machinery of government and lay the groundwork for swift economic recovery.
So the issue was broached by Icelandic politicians last week.

Reuters: Iceland nears center-left deal, EU offers hope (January 30, 2009)

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told British newspaper The Guardian that Iceland could win early EU membership.

"If Iceland applies shortly and the negotiations are rapid, Croatia and Iceland could join the EU in parallel," he said. Croatia hopes to conclude accession talks with the bloc later this year and to join in 2011.

Rehn's spokeswoman said Iceland's entry would be helped by its membership of the European Economic Area, the zone that includes the EU's 27 states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

This statement by Rehn came in reply to a question from The Guardian. And the fact is that, if asked how soon Iceland, Norway or Switzerland could join the EU, the answer would have to be "very quickly" because the amount of reforms needed to bring their national legislations in line with the EU acquis would be minimal as all three countries are already in the EEA. Croatia is not in the EEA, that's why it's taking longer.

What I think is really interesting is that Reuters would choose the word "hope" for the headline. That is an editorial decision.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:04:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Austria, Sweden and Finland had a similarly fast cruise into the EU, as compared to the EU-15->EU-25 expansion countries.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:47:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, they weren't bankrupt.

Wonder why Hungary doesn't get the same consideration...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:52:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bankrupt and bankrupt...

Both Sweden and Finland were suffering mayor economic depressions (including breakdown of the financial sectors) at the time. Actually without crises I doubt there would have been mayorities for yes in the referendums.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:28:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for the lack of link - I have serious tribext problems (and I don't know how to do it manually), but here is an article from December, quoting Olli Rehn:

Will Iceland Join The EU in 2009?
From the desk of Filip van Laenen on Sat, 2008-12-27 18:05

European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn said earlier this month during a video conference with Reykjavik from Oslo that the European Commission is already mentally preparing for a membership application from Iceland, and that a rapid treatment of the application could not be excluded. He mentioned specifically that the island could become a member of the European Union already before the end of 2009, even before Croatia.

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:54:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny thing...I went to university with Olli Rehn. He was two years ahead of me.

Don't know him well...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:00:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Link.

To do it manually, you copy the address from your browser's address bar (in this case, http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3714) and then you do

<a href="ADDRESS">TITLE</a>

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:11:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, even that was long precedented by calls for EU membership from Iceland. The first I remember was the trade unions' call back from October:

BBC NEWS | Business | Iceland moves to shore up economy

To help stabilise Iceland's troubled economy, they are also being urged to agree wage restraint, despite the country's inflation rate of 14%.

But in return, the unions want Iceland to apply for EU membership - a move it has resisted for decades.

I find in ET archives that that was followed by:

Iceland Moves A Step Closer to Europe | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 13.10.2008

Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson told Icelandic radio on Monday: "It's no secret, I've been against membership. However, the current turmoil means we have to look at every option."

A European Commission spokeswoman told Reuters news agency that she was not aware of Gudfinnsson's comments but said the EU's standard position remained that Iceland is a European country and thus entitled to apply for EU membership.

...and then, still in October, FT.com / Europe - Iceland sees rift over EU membership

The first serious cracks in Iceland's ruling Independence party on joining the European Union have appeared after its vice-chairman broke with party policy and said the crisis-hit nation should start thinking about membership now.

Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, minister of education, said an application for membership needed to be discussed "in weeks rather than months".

...further pro-EU-accession declarations from Icelanders included Björk.

To sum it up, I think you allowed yourself to be misled by your misgivings about the EU and turned the situation on its head.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:27:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To sum it up, I think you allowed yourself to be misled by your misgivings about the EU and turned the situation on its head

Not really, I have seen the possibility of EU membership mentioned in Iceland for some time, of course...  

It is this sudden 'welcome' and 'fast track' offer from the EU that puzzles me...

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:52:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying that an Icelandic application for EU membership wouldn't have been "welcomed" before? Do you have evidence of that?

As for "fast-track", there is nothing of the sort. Iceland would still need to go through all of the negotiations but it would presumably go faster than, say, Croatia, because it is already closer to the EU legally and instututionally, not because it would be put on a "fast track". The accession negotiations could easily be derailed. See the games being played with Croatian accession negotiations by a small number of EU member states.

Switzerland could join the EU in 2 years if it wanted to, just like Sweden, Denmark or the UK could join the Euro in 2 years if they wanted to.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:59:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The expression 'fast track' came from Mr Ollie Rehn. And I wondered why he used it.  

I do not doubt that both Iceland and Norway would be 'welcomed' into the EU, if they wanted to - they are half-way there already, as you say.    

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 12:13:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is getting weird...

European Voice: Iceland not on 'fast track' to membership By Rikard Jozwiak on 30.01.2009

Brussels dismisses notion of fast-track accession for Iceland, but membership application would find receptive audience.

An EU spokesperson today refuted newspaper report claims that there is a "fast-track path" to join the EU in the case of Iceland.

"There is no such thing as a fast-track path to the European Union", the spokesperson for enlargement, Krisztina Nagy, said in response to an article in today's issue of The Guardian in which the UK newspaper mooted the possibility that Iceland could join the EU in 2011 together with Croatia. The article was based on an interview in which Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for enlargement, said that Iceland "if Iceland applies shortly and the negotiations are rapid, Croatia and Iceland could join the EU in parallel".

Now, did Ollie Rehn actually say "fast-track" or did the press paraphrase him that way? On the other hand, "fast-track" is a favoured catchphrase in English language EU press releases :-)

I also found the following in a comment to Margot Wallström's Blog entry on Obama's inauguration:

Karsten Says:
January 24th, 2009 at 2:55 am

@Taytelbaum,

Actually the financial crisis shows you were wrong. Look at Iceland etc. The best for them would be a fast-track joining of the European Union, and they get their Fish Commissioner in the next Commission.

Parliament needs to get more powers. So as a Commission President I would find an agreement that each Commissioner has to visit national parliaments and be asked ressort specific questions. I would transform COSAC into a meaningful second Chamber of Parliament.

I think we have all been infected by facile English-language metaphors propagated by the media such as "fast track".

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:05:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I think we have all been infected

...by the real Anglo Disease?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:26:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ChrisCook:
Migeru:
I think we have all been infected

...by the real Anglo Disease?

hammer, meet nail.

the mangling of meaning in language is the prime infection vector of Anglo Disease.

it's a kind of shock doctrine, in effect.

once you have people reeling from the subversion of their relationship between language and truth, then you can move right into their minds and complete the damage...

small wonder the next stages then are fear, stockholm syndrome, learned passivity, false reverence for authority, internalisation of angst, and no sense of purpose passed on to the young, other than chasing the buck.

but first comes the castration of language, perfected by advertising and propaganda.

i'll know we have evolved, when this named pathology of Anglo Disease (or an even better title) has made it to common parlance.
 they just used to call it selfishness..

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:47:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What "sudden" welcome? You still view this as if the EU declared readiness out of the blue, rather than re-state its existing position in reaction to on-going discussion in Iceland, as queried by journalists.

The "fast track" aspect was also covered in the thread -- Iceland is an EFTA member, and just like for Austria and Sweden and Finland in the nineties, accession talks would have to cover much less fields than they had for f.e. Hungary (not to mention Croatia -- Central Europe at least had precedents like the Visegrád Group).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 01:46:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hear what you are saying - and, of course, I know that those EEA members who are not presently EU members would most likely have an easier entry than other countries...

But, but, but...for an EU official to use the expression 'fast track' about a country that is regarded as bankrupt - well, that still puzzles me.  My impression is that the EU has rather rigorous financial rules that must be met before entry.  You tell me.  I know little, I just wonder...

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 02:36:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See Migeru upthread about the supposed use of 'fast track' by an EU official.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:56:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw Migeru's reply re 'fast track', and it may have been used 'lightly', but my real question is whether or not Iceland meets the criteria for entry in its current financial situation?  

If not, even the normally faster entry for EEA countries should not apply, whatever you call it.  

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure the financial situation (as opposed to rules and laws governing finance) features in accession talks at all. It does feature in Eurozone convergence criteria - but there, not the current situation but future development is what really counts. (Meanwhile, as askod points out, Sweden and Finland were just climbing out from the depths of their early nineties crises when their accession talks began.)

BTW, Iceland has a third possibility beyond going the full EU/Eurozone way or a monetary union with Norway: the Montenegro way, that is, unilateral adoption of the Euro.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:16:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least they have options.
It will be interesting to see what Iceland will do...

 

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 07:01:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that Rehn talked about EU entry by the end of 2009 last Autumn, but is now talking about 2011.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:27:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure what to make of Rehn. One thing in his favour - he was prepared to stand up for Alpo Rusi (victim in manufactured spy scandal concerning Stasi files), and thus against the establishment and the Security Police, SuPo.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:32:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
And asking to be fast-tracked after an epic neo-liberal monetary policy fail for which no wealthy Icelanders have yet paid a suitable price?

I think you have the wrong end of the stick here.

The Press Association: Iceland offered fast-track EU entry

Iceland is being wooed by the European Union as a possible member state - despite the nation's economic collapse and a government which, for the moment, has no interest in joining the 27-nation club.

I think the EU sees a great deal of strategic advantage in assimilating Iceland.

As for humility, there's a great deal of self-criticism going on in Iceland right now, and major changes afoot, I think.  

A new Constitution will be the least of them, but it seems to me that the principal support in Iceland for  EU entry comes from the technocrats in the Executive whose unholy alliance with corporate pirates and unprincipled politicians got Iceland into trouble in the first place. That's where the humility must begin.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:03:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should not overlook a government change along the way... It bugs me when you speak about "Icelanders", in general.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not Icelanders of today. Icelanders of the previous two decades, along with Ireland and England, America's neo-liberal trojan horses within Europe.

It's when times get tough that they (well the smarter ones anyway, excepting the English of course) start getting all warm and cuddly to Europe. I see know the Irish are by crushing majorities now in favor of Lisbom, once they've gotten a face-saving (to the government in Dublin, not to us) concession....will you fancy that, Europe looks a lot better when you need help!

We'll see what they look like when they don't need the help anymore. Two decades plus of history suggest what the outcome of that query is. More tojan-horsery.

And I think we can do without that outcome.

Ah, but maybe I should go and talk about this on the Daily Mail's fora.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 10:57:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some Icelanders were warm and cuddly for the EU all along and now talk about it louder than before, others are hostile even now. And both factions are subdivided further along the pro-neolib | anti-enolib divide.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:16:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is a credible opposition to membership in the EU, specifically when that criticism involves EU's lack of commitment to social acquis, to decent market regulation and to charter of rights of man.

It's just that those weren't the people Icelanders were voting for these past few decades, and it is not idle posturing to wonder if, once this crisis is past (via more than a little help to ICeland's finances being brough into the Eurozone in rapid order), they would revert to same.  I don't know well enough Iceland to say. (Some of the English-speaking nations in the EU, that's another story altogether...)

There is valid criticism of the EU as itself a neo-liberal trojan horse completely inadapted to, say, the challenge of the severe recession (if not worse) upon which we're perhaps now embarking together. But Iceland is not like Norway in an important way -  in Norway, which has alternance, there are two strong strains of anti-EU sentiment, always have been the atlanticists on the right and the more socially mind left/green/soc dems on the left (e.g., "proper" EU critics and therefore proponents of more national soverignty than the EU  allows, stronger the more left, e.g., virtuous, you go).

In Iceland, virtue seems to be a very recent development, much like libertarians who become socialists in a financial crisis. It's worth asking, what is the authenticity of the conversion.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 11:49:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just that those weren't the people Icelanders were voting for these past few decades

The majority of Icelanders. And sadly, you could say the same thing about every single EU country.

Look, check the four EU accession advocating Icelander quotes I gave Solveig upthread. Your criticism applies precisely (crushingly, mortally) to two of them. It doesn't apply at all to the other two.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 01:50:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not every country.

Plus, there are vectors of disease, and there are those prone to the disease. I'd separate the vectors of the disease from those who catch it.

Source? US without a doubt. Vectors into the EU? UK (arguable a source if not a host), Ireland and Iceland. Arguably also the Netherlands and Denmark for good measure.

There are other trojan horses...Blair and the UK knew what they were doing with rapid accession of former Warsaw pact nations, but all in all (though the egregious behavior of the Czech and Polish Republics sometimes makes this hard to say, and it's understandable why Chirac would have a hard time with this as well) their history excuses them, and anyway, they've most of them large constituencies of people like ourselves, who know something other than neo-liberalism and are starting to tire of their experiences with it.

The Anglo-British countries in the EU, and the other mostly protestant countries of northwestern europe...they don't have the excuse of history, and have for generations shown their fondness for social organisation which I would say is anathema to the Europe I want to see. So no, I don't cut them slack.

And a few political leaders who, upon extreme political-economic stresses, find themselves in a generationally abberrant position of potential power, I don't see this as the stable expression of vox populi. And, unless European political and economic institutions become overnight robust enough to supplant national ones in matters social, economic, military and diplomatic, I don't really want any nation in the EU whose core popular values do not comprehensively mirror my own. That's a simple political preference, I know, but it's important to me that, if we are going to imagine the Ukraine, Turkey or Morocco not sufficiently European for admission into the EU, we be very clear why not, and apply the rule equitably. And, in so doing, find certain other applicants also not particularly worthy.

And, also, kick a few out.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 04:14:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
The Anglo-British countries in the EU, and the other mostly protestant countries of northwestern europe...they don't have the excuse of history, and have for generations shown their fondness for social organisation which I would say is anathema to the Europe I want to see. So no, I don't cut them slack.

No doubt you've written a few Diaries about what you would like to see, but which countries in the EU come closest to your vision?

redstar:

And, also, kick a few out.

And after kicking a few out, which ones do you reckon should be left? In order of preference, maybe?

Strictly no snark here: I'm genuinely interested.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Feb 2nd, 2009 at 06:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only diary I've directly written on the subject was my first one ever, which I think also may have been the biggest food fight I ever started. It's really about how federal Europe must become in order to be economically cohesive, with a large enough federal budget to do regional income transfers and investment schemes properly and thereby make all of us prosperous.

Italy is probably the first country I think of when wondering what they hell are they doing in the EU. Lack of respect for and protection of ethnic minorities of the sort Turkey has been kept at arms length for years. Vast, institutionalised under Berlusconi, public corruption. Exceedingly unfree press. Unabashed official re-embrace of its fascist past, the sort of thing which practically made Austria a pariah two decades ago (funny how timpes change). Seriously crappy economy a drag on all neighbors in its what, fourth recession in the past decade or so?
If Italy is in, so should Turkey be, or Serbia, or Croatia, why not Albania or Macedonia?

There are other countries whose commitment to Europe has always been suspect, notably the UK, which is why its accession was initially (and properly in my view) vetoes. The UK ever since has been a hindrance to greater EU integration, advancement of EU institutions all the while introducing quite a lot of discord via its Eastern strategy. But that's an obvious target and anyhow, most of the Eastern nations are core Europe, so we need to address that integration, it's not their fault they were hostages for decades in the US proxy war against the Soviet Union, and they need now help, not that the UK would have anything to do with such help.

Countries closest to my vision in Europe? France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway. Not all in the EU today. All in need of some reform after a couple of decades of neo-liberal experimentation (often introduced by social democrats claiming to have the people's interests at heart) but all with a long tradition of proper state control of industry, of historically well-run institutions of solidarity and with varying degrees, often expressed throught history via means other than the ballot, of popular support for and requirement of equality and solidarity. To these, no doubt many of the central and eastern-European new entrants also have a recent history of proper state involvement in the economy, egalitarianism, and solidarity and, while most of these nations went on their own often times extreme implementation of the neo-liberal economic consensus, as the Baltics are now seeing, there's a price for this, and it's not worth paying. So while they do not today correspond to where I think Europe should be going, I do think they will end up there.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:17:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary!

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:18:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the encouragement.

I'll throw something up there when I get home, it's half written already, related to the economic storm brewing right now. Unfortunately have to work the rest of the day!

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:47:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely a Diary there...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:24:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
outstanding overview, thanks redstar!

now to read the links about italy...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:33:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
The Anglo-British countries in the EU, and the other mostly protestant countries of northwestern europe...they don't have the excuse of history, and have for generations shown their fondness for social organisation which I would say is anathema to the Europe I want to see. So no, I don't cut them slack.

excellently put.

america, russia and china are all embracing totalitarianism and rule by fear, intimidating their own people from free expression of dissent.

we have a real chance in europe of doing it differently, so i resent the efforts of neo-libs here to 'reform' our ways so they reflect the needs of big business, and their blind seeking of profit-uber-alles, at great cost to the majority.

we are seeing the havoc that causes in spades...

as for kicking some out, can i assume italy is high on that list, from another of your comments here?

mybe italy would have to get its shit together (to run buses!) if it were threatened with expulsion from the EU.

it is so trying to watch politics in italy, it beggars description.

yet i think that kind of pressure could work miracles. right now they're an embarrassment to the EU, infecting it with another disease, arrogant impunity and viscuous corruption, combined with a flagrant reversion to kinder, gentler fascism.

the effect of the vatican acts also as a brake on the secularisation of europe, which i think is vitally important to cope with the eclectic belief systems we are adapting to cohabit with in immigrant populations.

and since we have chosen not to reproduce, yet are quite high-maintenance, it seems inevitable that europe will continue to absorb a growing influx of economic refugees from all quarters.

 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:09:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not every country.

Name one, just one EU country where neolib or neolib-tainted or neolib-compromising forces weren't the majority for at least a decade.

Vectors into the EU? UK (arguable a source if not a host), Ireland and Iceland. Arguably also the Netherlands and Denmark for good measure.

Meh, I think the neolibs operating in Italy, France and Germany had more influence than Dutch ones, and say Denmark catched cold more recently (just in the current decade - don't confuse historical Danish Euroscepticism with the British version). Ireland wasn't anywhere near the picture-book liberaliser neolib propaganda wants to paint it, either (as discussed several times since ET's conception by Colman and Frank Schnittger). Iceland contacted the Friedman disease two decades ago, but whether it had the influence of a vector even as an offshore central, I wonder.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:10:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the supposed duality of vectors of the neolib disease and those who catch it in Europe, let me add a note focusing on France.

Private media play an important role in the Thatcher-Reagan-etc right-wing project. Indeed private TV was usually introduced by right-wing governments in the EU, with more or less explicit justifications of 'balancing' 'left-leaning' public TV -- with effects on public discussion ranging from moderate (Germany) to severe (Italy). Now in this field, and media concentration in the hands of readily influence-exerting right-wing media barons in general, France is one of the worst in Europe.

Another field is retailers. Contrary to the (not just) Anglo stereotype of France as the land of corner shops, France is the land of strip malls: even if they are of higher quality than WalMart, Auchan and Carrefour have plastered the landscape, and are giants expanding throughout the EU.

In other fields, France is holding on. However, the same is true of the Nordic countries, only in differing fields. For example, Sweden was one of the pioneers of rail liberalisation (ahead of Britain; and followed in intent if not execution by Germany) even while staying much more socialistic than the rest of the EU, especially in taxes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair and the UK knew what they were doing with rapid accession of former Warsaw pact nations

I'm not sure he had the grand vision initially at all. (Later, when the EU wouldn't dance to his tune and his hopes for a Franco-German-British EU Directorium were dashed, sure he got it.) Bliar was a change from the just xenophobic Tory EU (non)expansion policy, but I don't remember much enthusiasm from his government until the last few years. The main promoter of expansion was Germany; France tried to sabotage it first by insisting on hoped-for ally Romania, then by demanding a "Big Bang" expansion with all candidates; but what was intended as bluff for sabotage got wide support in the end, with smaller EU-15 members hoping for an increased weight against the four bigs.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-Soviet Russian buffer zone by other means. Also - cheap labour.

The Eastern Bloc has given Brussels severe political indigestion, but union always made perfect sense from a neolib perspective.

I'm not sure how the politics would have worked out if Poland etc hadn't been swallowed by amoebic assimilation. And I suspect there may even be a quiet plan among at least some Euro-pols to treat accession as a civilising influence on the Wild East, even if it takes a generation or two.

Blair's main interest was always historical significance rather than political effectiveness, so I doubt he had a masterplan - more a need to be noticed by being involved in something grand and interesting.

Apart from the twitchy mania and the smallness of size, he's always had a lot in common with Sarkozy.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 08:50:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-Soviet Russian buffer zone by other means.

That doesn't follow from what I said at all... In fact, a "buffer zone" would be outside of the EU, not inside. In this, EU accession has less parallels with NATO extension. When neocon/neolib foreign policy strategy came into play at the EU level, that was in 2002-3, on the issue of Iraq rather than Russia.

And I suspect there may even be a quiet plan among at least some Euro-pols to treat accession as a civilising influence on the Wild East, even if it takes a generation or two.

Certainly. But, would this motivation have ruled, it might have been better. What ruled first and foremost was economic interests (assimilation of significant markets for Germany and Austria, to a lesser extent France into the common market), followed by considerations about the relative position in the EU (Germany, Austria did not like to be at the border of the EU, smaller states hoped for a greater weight).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:41:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strategic considerations also played a major role for Germany's push for expansion. The notion of having an unstable hostile nation on their border whose main political movement hated their guts on principle, were radical nationalists, and rather authoritarian wasn't all that appealing. Or in other words the PiS and Radio Maryja types would have been stronger, while the europhilic and pro good Polish-German relations types would have been weaker, not to mention rather annoyed with Germany. Public opinion would also have been very anti-German (same reasons - either on principle or pissed at them not supporting EU membership). Furthermore, Germany's ability to deal with that sort of situation would have been complicated by it's historical baggage.
by MarekNYC on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 03:37:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep. This was one thing implicit in my "did not like to be at the border of the EU" formulation. (A similar thinking was part of the motivation for Hungarian governments to support Romania's accession, and I believe talos made a counter-intuitive point about Greece's position on Turkey's accession to the same tune.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 04:38:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
they've most of them large constituencies of people like ourselves, who know something other than neo-liberalism and are starting to tire of their experiences with it.

Also known as the Kaczynskis' base. Between the fact that occasional rhetoric aside, the post-communists have been rather neolib/kleptocratic, and that those worst hit by capitalism tend to be rather conservative other than on economics (i.e. the rural population and retirees), the natural tendency in Poland is for economic discontent to manifest itself as right wing populism. This might well start changing as a new, less nationalist, less ultra-Catholic and less socially conservative post-communist generation starts voting in big numbers, but I don't see a genuine left part emerging for at least a few more years. On the other hand those that are into EU federalism and pro building closer ties with France and Germany tend also to be neolib and have done well out of capitalism.

by MarekNYC on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 04:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Confirmation from the Norwegian Minister of Finance, Kristin Halvorsen that a possible currency co-operation with Norway will be discussed with the new Icelandic government in Reykjavik 27/28 January.
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 07:19:48 AM EST
Gwladys Fouché: Iceland may seek monetary union with Norway | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

While Iceland is debating whether applying for EU membership is really the best option to rescue its crisis-hit economy, there is another option on the table growing in popularity: monetary union with Norway.

None other than Iceland's new finance minister, Steingúrmur Sigfússon, is considering the idea of using the Norwegian crown as the country's currency - a move that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:35:32 PM EST


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