Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson said he is looking closely into matters concerning the Iceland Defense Agency, which began operations on June 1, 2008, and that it will possibly have to be shut down.
The Iceland Defense Agency and its director Ellisif Tinna Vídisdóttir. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“I believe there are many possibilities to save money by merging different operations of the agency with that of other institutions,” Skarphédinsson told Fréttabladid. “I’m in the same position as other Icelanders who now have to think about every penny and do everything they can to save and rationalize.”
Skarphédinsson said the matter is complicated and will take a long time. “The matter an absolute priority with me and I have called for data both from my ministry and others.”
Former Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnason described the Iceland Defense Agency as “remnants of times past” and said it might even complicate defense relationships with other nations. The Coast Guard should be focused on instead.
Bjarnason spoke during a meeting organized by the Association on Western Cooperation last week where he discussed Norway’s former Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs Thorvald Stoltenberg’s report on Nordic Cooperation on Foreign and Security Policy, presented at a meeting between the Nordic foreign ministers on Oslo earlier this month.
“Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson and chairman of the foreign affairs committee Árni Thór Sigurdsson have the tendency to understate the military aspect of Stoltenberg’s report,” Bjarnason said.
“That is similar as using the words ‘defense-related projects’ and is a little silly considering that Stoltenberg’s report revolves to a considerable extent around such solutions and [Skarphédinsson and Sigurdsson] both support its execution,” Bjarnason added.
Sigurdsson, who is a member of the Left-Greens, said he agrees with Bjarnason that the Iceland Defense Agency is disposable and that unlike Bjarnason he voted against it when it was first proposed.
“The view of the Left-Greens is that if safety must be ensured and the traffic in our waters must be supervised then it should be in the hands of the Coast Guard, the Civil Aviation Administration and the emergency services,” Sigurdsson said. “We pointed out that the Defense Agency is extremely costly and now it is more important to consider that.”
According to the 2009 budget bill, ISK 1.2 billion (USD 11 million, EUR 8 million) will be allocated to the Iceland Defense Agency this year.