Apr 07 2009
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Aluminum Companies Consulted About New Draft of the Icelandic Constitution

A parliamentary committee for redrafting of the Icelandic constitution consulted representatives from three foreign aluminium companies – Rio Tinto-Alcan, Alcoa and Century Aluminum – to give comments about the constitution. The chairman of the committee is the former minister of industry, Valgerður Sverrisdóttir – the ‘aluminium lady’.

A regulation about the national property of natural resources is in a draft of law that recently has been heavily debated in the parliament. The committee asked for comment from various directions, e.g. the aluminium and energy companies. All the three aluminium companies are owned by foreign investors and their holding companies are all registered abroad.

Björn Bjarnason, the former minister of justice and the Independence Party’s representative in the committee, says that the wish for comments from the aluminium companies does not come from the Independence Party (right wing conservatives). Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, the chairman of the committee, a representative of the Progressive Party (right wing) and a former minister of industry has not been reachable since this information was brought to the media.

Together, these two right wing parties created Iceland’s heavy industry policy, starting with a campaign called ‘Lowest Energy Prices’, which advertised Iceland’s cheap energy, cheap politics and “a minimum environmental red tape”. A platform was created for the international aluminium industry to develop with the financial support of the Icelandic state. These two parties have repeatedly denied the contribution of Iceland’s heavy industrialization to the collapse of the economy.

Only one of the three aluminium companies – Norðurál/Century Aluminum – gave comments on the constitution. Their contribution was a small scale comment on the wording of the regulations about resources. The question still remains: Why did the committee ask the aluminium companies to give their opinions about the constitution?

Smugan, a leftist news web page wrote a good sum-up about what kind of organizations or companies were asked to comment on the constitution. The list is interesting and includes e.g. energy companies, official institutions, universities and the bishop of Iceland.

No grassroots organizations were asked, no human right groups and no representatives from other religious groups than the state Lutheran church. No immigrant groups, travel and outdoor organizations or local environmental groups. Not the Equality Institution, the Art Academy or the Universities’ students organizations.

This is no surprise; it is in the spirit of the same old Icelandic democracy deficit. Few weeks ago, Ólöf Nordal, a MP from the Independence Party campaigned in parliament for a financial support from the government to help Alcoa to build a new aluminium smelter in Bakki in north Iceland. None of the Icelandic media pointed out that Ólöf Nordal is the wife of Tómas Már Sigurðsson, Alcoa’s director in Iceland. When finally asked about it by Smugan, Ólöf denied that there were any personal connections involved.

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