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Articles in English

2.11.2016
JBH interview Scotland

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14.9.2016
WHAT´S WRONG WITH EUROPE – AND WHY DON´T YOU FIX IT?

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9.9.2016
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE NORDIC MODEL?

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31.3.2016
HOW TO SAVE CAPITALISM FROM THE CAPITALISTS - AND DEMOCRACY FROM THE PLUTOCRATS?

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15.2.2016
The Transition from totalitarianism to democracy: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE BALTIC ROAD TO FREEDOM AND POST-INDEPENDENCE EXPERIENCE?

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All articles in English

21.4.2009

DELORS´S BABY

The EEA-agreement is a product of the Cold War era. Five of us defined themselves as neutral or outside alliances. Two of us were NATO members, but suspicious of the European Union for different reasons.

We were small nations – in terms of population, but strong in terms of trade and economics. This awkward mix meant that we were marginal vis a vis the process of European integration. This gap had somehow to be bridged.

Jacques Delors – still today the greates tof the EU-presidents – was the consummate political fixer. In his time he had saved the Mitterand regime from floundering on the rocks of out-of-date economics. Now he proposed to square the circle with us.

The EEA is Delors´s baby. It is the product of Gallic logic and Nordic/Alpine flexibility. It was designed to be a bridge across the Cold War devide. When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, it became in fact obsolete.

Three of the neutrals (The Swiss stuck to their splendid isolation) soon got the message and behaved accordingly. They crossed the bridge safely into the EU, fourteen years ago. The three loners – Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein – are still hesitating at the wrong end of the bridge, counting their losses for fifteen years.

In the more than one thousand year history of the Icelandic Althingi, no issue – not even the adoption of Christianity - has been more hotly debated than the EEA. Only the social-democrats gave it unqualified support from the beginning to the end.

The conservatives were against it, while in opposition, but the majority of them came to accept it, after joining the government. The socialists and the agrarians gave it their blessing at the beginning but turned their back on it when they went into opposition. It was adopted almost by default.

For 15 years the EEA-agreement has been Iceland´s mainstay in its relationship with Europe. It gave our island nation a home market of 500 million customers by a few strokes. This cleared the way for Iceland´s economic miracle. Accordingly, almost everyone thought the EEA was so marvellous that we need not bother to take the final step into the EU.
Now, when Iceland has earned the dubious reputation of becoming the first rich country to fall victim to the international financial crisis, the EEA- agreement is suddenly being blamed for the fall. Thus the EEA is deemed to be the root cause of both – the Rise and Fall – of the island nation of the high north.

This is not a bad record at all. And it might even be a worthy obituary, if we ever summon the courage to cross the bridge we built - 15 years ago.

Greinin á íslensku

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson (The author was Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs of Iceland 1987-95)

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