I recently discovered that Iceland is not just a supermarket used by Kerry Katona to get her fat arse all over the telly these days. Iceland is, in fact, probably one of the smartest countries to be bargaining their way out of economic meltdown in recent times.
With the US gubbernment now reconsidering some of its throw money at people to help them loose it all again idea and Brian Cowen ensuring we make it through by consigning us to thick children and disease, Iceland have played the EU off against Russia and are now sitting on a €5 Billion handout and fast track progress into the Eurozone. Hats off to you lads. Brilliantly played. Bear in mind, Iceland has a population of around 320,000. That’s about the population of Cork and Limerick, and all they had to do was ask Russia for help after Gordon Brown used anti terror legislation to freeze Icelandic assets in the UK, the plonker. Now his taxpayers are footing the bill. So am I, but I don’t care because I like Iceland’s style and I think we could learn a lot from their no nonsense attitude to getting handouts from the EU. Iceland have shied away from the EU in the past in the large part because they are heavily dependant on fishing, and opening up their waters to EU fleets and being subject to quotas such as Irish fishermen find themselves subject too would ruin the livelihoods of a fair portion of the population. Kinda like the knock-on effects of the property “downturn”, or “Implosion”, whichever you prefer to call it here in Ireland, only the Icelanders do it properly and make the industry sustainable, controllable and for the benefit of the people most in need of it. Unfortunately Iceland’s financiers were a bit more myopic and allowed themselves to be sucked in by larger scale economics which turned out to be wholly unsuited to an economy of their size. Their banks got into trouble, their currency collapsed and because they were a small economy with a small independent currency they were wide open. The shit hit the fan, and no one wanted to know.
So, in step our Russian friends. Here ye go lads, we have loads of money. How about we cut ye a few bob? You can pay us back whenever.
Queue pants being shit all over Brussels.
The Russians are currently scaring the bejaysus out of the EU and US with their rather aggressive (fuck you) attitude towards seeking out natural resources in the polar region. Iceland in their pocket would be the icing on the cake (nice pun wha?) for them when it comes to exploiting the predicted billions worth of oil and gas in the region that neither Iceland or Greenland have the money or inclination to go after.
The Middle East is struggling to keep up with capacity and (let’s face it) plain don’t like us, and the US have their hands tied by environmental legislation stopping them from exploiting their own fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. So, we are all now bound to look east for the future of production, with the added bonus of turning Eastern Europe into the front line in the energy wars of the future as was so dramatically displayed over the summer with Georgia squabbling with Russia over a previously unknown and ungiven a shit about South Ossetia regarding a certain supply line flowing into Europe.
Whatever people might think of Europe, the EU, the EEC or whatever you want to call it, in my opinion it may have come along just in time to serve its original purpose.
After WW2 European leaders decided that enough was enough. Two wars had decimated the continent. The only way to ensure future security was to develop financial interdependence, so, instead of a loose band of states struggling to keep their heads above water and squabbling over living and farming space (see the Balkans in the 90’s), all the while being manipulated by the super economies and empires with their own interests in mind, we became a multicultural economic heavyweight in our own right. I’m not sure how much of this was down to the foresight of the original men behind the project and how much has been made up as we go along, but we are the most unique empire in history in the sense that we have people queuing up to become a part of it. Some even going so far as to entice the competition as a means of dangling a carrot like our Icelandic friends.
We certainly live in interesting times. Communism has failed, capitalism is in the process of failing and even representative democracy itself is being called into question by our own government telling us we didn’t vote the right way so we will have to vote on Lisbon again. Yet all the while we seem to be becoming what the US aspired to be before the Neocons came along and ruined it. A rather nice place to be.
We live in the upper-class neighbourhood of the world. Not so much walled in as everyone else walled out and from time to time we offer someone a ladder but only if it’s in the strategic interests of ourselves. However, Iceland has shown us that there is always a chink in the armour that another neighbourhood can use to exploit our own greed through the clever manipulation of those same interests. Now let’s see Turkey getting pissed off about having to do it the proper way.