Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Össur Skarphéðinsson attended a meeting with Michel Rocard, former Socialist Prime Minister of France and a special ambassador for the preservation of the Antarctic environment, mbl.is reports.
France invites Icelandic scientists to use their research facilities in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic, as well as those in Antarctica. France will send its own specialists to conduct Arctic research in Akureyri. Both nations want to establish increased partnership between the University of Akureyri and the Pierre and Marie CURIE University in Paris.
Icelandic scientists will be invited to participate in projects concerning the economical and sociological effects of climate change in the polar regions and the two countries will hold an OECD conference, where an exhibition featuring the works of photographer, Ragnar Axelsson (known as RAX), based in part on his film, The Last Days of the Arctic. Iceland Review reviewed the film earlier this year.
The ministers of foreign affairs also discussed the restoration of Iceland's economy following the collapse of the banking system in 2008. Össur thanked France for their support with the IMF bail-out program and elaborated on Iceland’s plan to resolve the Icesave conflict, and explained how the recovery of assets from the old Landsbanki estate will suffice to pay off all claims, mbl.is reports.
The two ministers also discussed the options available to Iceland in matters of foreign currency. Minister Juppé expressed his opinion that the Euro would be Iceland’s best option under the circumstances, especially after the particular actions taken in the Euro-zone of late.
Össur described the current status in Iceland’s EU negotiations, emphasizing the importance of the fishing industry for the Icelandic economy and nation's heart and soul.
He told Juppé that it was Iceland’s sincere desire to commence discussions with the EU concerning the fishing industry as soon as possible. The French minister agreed that so far the negotiations had been successful, and sincerely hoped the more difficult aspects of the negotiations would commence as soon as possible. He was convinced an acceptable resolution could be mediated.
Minister Juppé also discussed France and the EU’s stance on the Iranian nuclear issue, and suggestions from Israeli government officials concerning a military attack on Iranian targets.
The atrocities in Syria were also brought up. The two ministers discussed potential ways to end the killings by the Syrian government of its people and the need to reinstate peace in the country.
Rector Stefán B. Sigurðsson expressed his contentment in response to the newly established union of the two nations, within the field of research in the polar regions. The French ambassador visited the University of Akureyri last week to discuss the matter.
But France is not the only country to express an interest in working with the University of Akureyri. Countries such as China, Brazil and India are among interested parties. The university already works with Norwegians, who plan to fund a professorship in Arctic studies at the University.
“The Nordic regions are the future. It is the region where the sequence of events to come will be on a grand scale, and most countries are interested in being involved,” he told Rúv.is.
“The co-operation with France, and the opportunity to work in French research laboratories, now available to Icelandic Scientist, will no doubt be taken advantage of, especially in Svalbard,” he added.
France also stands to benefit from the co-operation, as Stefán explained to Rúv.is:
“By co-operating with Iceland, France will become more involved in the co-operative affairs of the Arctic regions. France is not one of the eight countries geographically located in the regions, (i.e., Alaska, USA, Canada, Russia and the Nordic countries). I am sure they are already involved in similar co-operative affairs with other countries, but we are nonetheless extremely happy France desires such relations with us too,” Stefán concluded.