Iceland’s President Criticizes Neighboring Countries

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Iceland’s President Criticizes Neighboring Countries

The Nordic media have reported extensively on Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson’s criticism of Iceland’s neighbors, which he issued during a luncheon with foreign delegates in Reykjavík on Friday.

The Danish Ambassador to Iceland invited his counterparts in Iceland and President Grímsson to the luncheon, Morgunbladid reports.

Iceland's President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

The story was leaked to Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen, which yesterday quoted the Norwegian Embassy’s memo from the luncheon, stating that Grímsson had “shocked” the delegates with his harsh words about Sweden, Denmark and Britain.

Klassekampen also claimed that Grímsson had indicated Iceland would have to find new friends, offering Russia’s representative to make use of the military base in Keflavík. The Russian delegate was allegedly both surprised and humored and rejected the offer.

Grímsson appeared on RÚV’s news magazine Kastjós last night, saying that he had of course not offered Russia to use the military base, “Because it is neither part of my job nor in my power to make such an offer.”

Iceland’s president is supposed to serve as a non-political representative of the country.

Grímsson said that he had been honest about his opinion of Britain’s attitude towards Iceland and some of the Nordic countries’ lack of support, although he had not intended to offend anyone.

“Perhaps I was to a certain extent in my conversation with the ambassadors reciting […] the perception that I feel the Icelandic nation has towards countries that have been our friends and allies through thick and thin,” Grímsson said, explaining that the nation does not have that same perception of these countries anymore.

In the Kastljós interview, Grímsson emphasized that it was not in his hands to form Iceland’s foreign policy, although it is his role to uphold Iceland’s cause.

Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir told RÚV that although it is natural that the president meets with foreign delegates, he should not intervene with her ministry’s work.