Sense of Deception

Iceland Voters Reject Repayment Plan


Iceland flag

Iceland’s voters expressed their outrage on Saturday against bankers, the government and what they saw as foreign bullying, overwhelmingly rejecting a plan to pay $5.3 billion to Britain and the Netherlands to reimburse customers of a failed Icelandic bank, Sarah Lyall reported in The New York Times.

With about 98 percent of the votes counted Sunday, roughly 93 percent of voters said no to the plan, in the first public referendum ever held on any subject in Iceland. Less than 2 percent voted yes, and the rest of the votes were invalid.

But the referendum was more symbolic than substantive, and the Icelandic government hastened to make clear that Iceland would still pay back the money, albeit on different terms from the ones rejected.

“We want to be perfectly clear that a ‘no’ vote does not mean we are refusing to pay,” Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said. “We will honor our obligations. To maintain anything else is highly dangerous for the economy of this country.”

In the Netherlands, Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager said Saturday, as the first results were being reported, that Iceland’s referendum was an “internal matter,” the Dutch news service ANP reported.

Still, Mr. Jager noted that no agreement was operative yet for the repayment. He said in a letter to his Icelandic counterpart that Britain and the Netherlands were committed to “finding a solution in line with international standards,” the news service reported.

International standards may have more importance for Iceland than other countries, as it was invited last month to begin accession talks with the European Union.

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