Foreign Affairs Address to the Althing
H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade
April 17, 1997
Table of Contents
Trade Service and Export Trade
The Nordic Countries and Neighbouring Nations
The European Union
The Council of Europe
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
The Defence Co-operation
The United Nations
The World Trade Organization
The Law of the Sea and Marine Resources
International co-operation is constantly becoming more extensive. It is therefore necessary for Iceland to have the capacity to meet all the obligations of a free and sovereign nation. This requires a vigorous Foreign Service and firm administration of foreign affairs. The Foreign Service must have the capability to enable Icelanders to fulfil the obligations they have undertaken and to maintain constant alertness as regards the protection of our foreign interests. However, our Foreign Service has not been strengthened in proportion to its increased responsibilities.
I have therefore ordered a study of how the Foreign Service should be strengthened so that it can perform as well as possible in a transformed world.
The establishment of a permanent delegation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg next summer has already been announced. The question of opening an embassy in Japan next year is also under consideration. Next autumn, a special Foreign Trade Service will be established within the Foreign Service. A special culture and information office will also be set up within the Ministry, since, under the law, the Foreign Service is charged with protecting the interests of Iceland abroad both with regard to foreign trade and cultural matters.
Foreign Trade Service and Export Trade
Over the past year, the international trade environment has undergone tremendous change. Trade has been liberalised and the competition is constantly increasing. Our industries are confronted by the fact that the Icelandic market has become an international market and the entire world is one market area. The internationalisation of Icelandic enterprises is both logical and necessary as it renders them more capable of meeting foreign competition, both abroad and at home and provides a basis for increased prosperity.
In order to meet the new needs of the industries resulting from growing foreign trade and increasing internationalisation of Icelandic enterprises, a Foreign Trade Service of the Foreign Ministry has been established which will formally begin operating on 1 September of this year. The Foreign Service has always been prepared to assist export companies. Now, however, this assistance has been placed on a formal basis and adapted to the transformation that foreign trade has undergone. This is consistent with the developments which have been taking place in our neighbouring countries, where foreign trade service has been greatly increased in recent years.
The purpose of the Foreign Trade Service will be to provide information, establish contacts and disseminate expertise to enterprises involved in international trade. To begin with, the service will be offered in ten places around the world. In the near future, it is hoped that the service will be extended to more countries.
No entity in Iceland commands as extensive an international network as the Foreign Service, which operates 14 embassies and permanent delegations abroad and has access to 200 honorary consuls all across the world. The Foreign Service, furthermore, commands extensive expertise and has decades of experience in foreign relations.
Icelanders possess specialised knowledge, experience and an educated workforce, and we should therefore be able to enjoy success, both in the traditional fields of fisheries and ancillary industries. The possibilities in other production and service industries are also great. The software development sector has enjoyed explosive growth. There is no reason to doubt that other Icelandic enterprises, which to date have not been active on foreign markets, will manage to establish themselves in the international sphere.
Internationalisation calls for a new way of thinking among the employees both of the enterprises themselves and of the government. With the advent of the Foreign Trade Service, the Foreign Service will be better equipped to perform its functions and promote an even more powerful internationalisation of Icelandic enterprises.
The Nordic and Neighbouring Countries
Active participation in Nordic Co-operation remains a basic element of Icelandic Foreign Policy. In the wake of changes in the organisation of the Nordic Council, European affairs and co-operation in neighbouring regions now comprise two of the main areas of co-operation of the Nordic countries.
Regional co-operation within the Barents Council, the Baltic Council and the Arctic Council has increased substantially. Iceland has participated actively in this co-operation, and ways to increase Iceland's contribution are being studied. Special emphasis will be placed on areas where special expertise and experience in Iceland can be put to good use for our partner states.
Almost two years have passed since Iceland became a member of the Baltic Council. The main purpose of the Council is to promote all forms of relations between the Member States by improving the economic climate and promoting increased trade, and at the same time strengthening the foundations of democracy, human rights and public security. The work of the Council in the area of environmental matters is also important. Although the Council was established relatively recently, its activities have already returned substantial results.
I am especially pleased to mention that on April 4 of this year, an agreement was signed between Iceland and Lithuania on the mutual abolition of visa requirements. The conclusion of similar agreements with Estonia and Latvia is scheduled for the very near future. These agreements are important to the Baltic States and symbolic of their increased relations with Western democratic states.
The Icelandic government decided to contribute to the reinforcement of the foundations of democracy in Estonia, and for this reason the Ombudsman of the Althingi has been working with the Estonians on the establishment of an office of Ombudsman in that country. The inauguration of the office is scheduled for later this year.
With the establishment of the Arctic Council, a forum has been created for extensive co-operation between the eight Member States; only security and defence matters lie outside the Council's scope according to the Declaration of the Establishment of the Council. One of the Council's most important tasks will be to ensure a balance between environmental conservation and the utilisation of natural resources in the Arctic Region. Work is in progress on establishing rules of procedure for the Council and laying the foundation for sustainable utilisation of natural resources in the area.
As the Arctic Council develops, there is good reason to reconsider even further the organisation of regional co-operation in the Arctic Region. Ways must be found to prevent any form of duplication of effort. For this purpose, draft recommendations were recently submitted by Iceland on the co-ordination of the work of the Arctic Council and the Barents Council; the latter organisation has chiefly been the forum of co-operation projects with the purpose of promoting economic reform and environmental conservation in North-western Russia and adjacent areas. These proposals have been well received and they will be followed up.
Since the EEA Agreement took effect, the activities of the European Free-Trade Association, EFTA, have chiefly centred on relations with the EU. In public discourse, there is a tendency to make unduly little of the influence of the EFTA-states. Of late, the EFTA states have to a greater extent exercised their right to monitor the work of the EU Commission committees and present their views. Thus, their influence on the final formulation of European regulations have been increasing steadily.
The EFTA-states and the EFTA-Secretariat work together in order to ensure that the lack of personnel does not prevent active participation in the expert committees. Furthermore, the EFTA-states can submit written comments on the proposals of the EU Council of Ministers after the Commission has returned its proposals, and this is being done on an increasing scale. Iceland and Norway have the unique position of being able to utilise their co-operation with the other three Nordic countries, which are Member States of the EU. It is important to expand this co-operation so that Nordic views are even better represented internationally.
The EEA agreement entails not only trade advantages. It also confers considerable rights on Icelandic citizens. These include the right to work, conduct research and pursue studies or training in all the Member States within the European Economic Area. In order to increase the public awareness of these rights, the Foreign Ministry will publish promotional material within the next few months on the information initiative of the European Union.
The Member States of the EU are among Iceland's closest partners in foreign affairs and security. The EEA agreement has made it possible for the EFTA-countries to consult with the EU on international political matters. The co-operation is progressing well, and Iceland is now a party to numerous EU declarations. Furthermore, briefings and consultation meetings are being held with the EU and EFTA-states within the EEA on foreign political matters with increasing frequency.
The European Union
The Intergovernmental Conference of the European Union has now been in progress for over a year and the progress is slow. Expectations regarding the conference are now lower than they were at the outset, and there are little prospects of fundamental changes. However, it may be expected that the results of the conference will lead to some strengthening of the position of the European Parliament, that the number of decisions which may be taken by weighed majority will increase and that deliberations on foreign policy will be more efficient; also that co-operation in police, environmental and social matters will be strengthened. Some changes in the proportional weight of the votes of Member States are also to be expected as well as a clearer definition of the procedures regarding co-operation which does not extend to all the Member States.
All changes can potentially affect the development of our future relations with the EU, but two matters are of particular importance. On the one hand there is the relation between the Western European Union and the EU and the second is the way in which the Schengen co-operation relates to the European Union.
It is a matter for some concern, that the opinion is occasionally expressed that the WEU should be incorporated into the European Union and become the defence arm of the EU. We have forcefully opposed such ideas, since it could endanger the happy consensus on European security matters which has been formed among the European countries inside and outside the EU and our allies in North America.
There is an increasing likelihood that the Schengen co-operation will become more closely linked with the institutions of the EU. One solution could be that the staff of the EU would take on the service role of implementing of the agreement, but there is also some talk of the regulations of Schengen becoming a part of the regulation framework of the EU. Whatever the conclusion, it has always been maintained in the discussions that full account will be taken of the co-operation agreement between Norway and Iceland and the Schengen-states.
No single matter will have a greater effect on the inner market of the EU, and thereby the EEA, than the success of the Union in implementing the adoption of a single currency. The Foreign Ministry, other ministries and other institutions concerned are monitoring the process closely. No comprehensive study has been undertaken, however, so the government is preparing to form a special committee to co-ordinate viewpoints and collect data in one place.
The Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is a key institution for co-operation in the areas of human rights, development of democracy and improved relations of different nations across borders. The work of the Council is particularly important for the adaptation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to Western social and political traditions. Many of these countries are already members, and the Member States are now forty.
The Icelandic government has emphasised participation in the Council of Europe and its affairs have been discussed in most of the Ministries, and the Althing and numerous Members of Parliament have participated in the Council's work in various ways. In two years' time, Iceland will take over the chairmanship in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This is a difficult task, which will require expertise and human resources. For this reason, it has been decided to establish an Icelandic permanent delegation in Strasbourg as of next summer.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
In the rapid changes now in progress, the importance of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe is becoming ever clearer. There are 55 Member States in the Organisation, i.e. all the countries of Europe and all the states of the former Soviet Union as well as the United States and Canada. In the co-operation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Russia, which is now in formation, key emphasis is placed on the framework provided by the OSCE for the relations between countries and on strengthening the organisation and observing the provisions of the Helsinki Treaty. Iceland has not had a permanent delegation in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe since 1993. In light of the growing role of the organisation, it will be necessary to review this position.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
In spite of the framework provided by the OSCE, NATO will continue to be the centre of gravity of security co-operation within Europe. 1997 is an important year in the history of the Alliance, since important decisions will be made soon which will affect its future.
The internal adaptation of the Alliance involves a review of the military command with the purpose of simplifying it and making it more flexible. In this way, it will become easier for the Alliance to react to localised projects, such as peacekeeping missions. A more flexible military command will also facilitate the strengthening of the European defence pillar within the Organisation and make it possible for European countries to take measures in instances where our allies in North America decide to stand by. Such measures will in all probability be under the control of the Western European Union, which will make use of the facilities and command system of NATO.
In the adaptation now taking place, constant emphasis must be placed on the importance of maintaining the link across the Atlantic on a firm basis, a continued strong American presence in Europe and the assurance of their participation in the military command. This link must not be weakened by any means.
At the summit meeting of the Alliance next June, the decision will be made what countries should be invited to membership talks in the first enlargement of the Alliance since the end of the Cold War. Free and sovereign nations are free to decide on how their security interests are best served, inside or outside alliances. This view is clearly stated in the principal documents of the OSCE and was reiterated at the summit meeting of the OSCE in Lisbon last December. It should be borne in mind, however, that any decision on enlargement must be the unanimous decision of all Member States. It is important to reach a good consensus within the alliance on the first countries to be offered membership.
The prospective enlargement of NATO has already had positive effects on the security environment of Europe. Many Central and Eastern European nations have already concluded or are in the process of concluding agreements with their neighbouring countries resolving hitherto unresolved disputes; this is a necessary precondition for membership of NATO. NATO has also issued unilateral declarations in the recent past, and one of these declarations is that there will be no nuclear weapons on the soil of new member states, as this would be inconsistent with the progress of reducing the nuclear capability of the Alliance. It may be noted that the nuclear arsenal in Europe has already been reduced by more than 80% and further reductions are planned. The Alliance has also declared that there will be no reason for the permanent deployment of foreign troops in new member states.
It is common knowledge that Iceland has suggested that all applying states should be offered membership simultaneously, but progress should depend on membership talks. This view is based not least on the interests of the Baltic States, as it is our declared policy to support their membership in the first round.
As an alternative, I think it would be sensible to limit the enlargement strictly and offer only a few countries membership to begin with. This should ensure an enlargement process without undue hitches. It also increases the odds that the next enlargement will take place sooner than later. It should be firmly emphasised that NATO will remain open to new member states and that this first enlargement will not be the last.
At the same time it is important to increase co-operation with the states which do not obtain membership in the first round and with the states who have not sought membership. For this reason, emphasis should be placed on the establishment of a new Atlantic Partnership Council (APC) based on the work of the nations within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the North Atlantic Co-operation Council (NACC). Furthermore, it is important to strengthen the Partnership for Peace greatly and ensure the role and participation of the Partnership states in its development and activities and to offer as close co-operation with NATO as possible.
The Partnership for Peace has proven extremely successful, and it has brought together the nations of NATO and most other countries of Europe. Thus, countries have worked together to ensure peace throughout the continent and it is a fact that without the experience of the Partnership for Peace the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina would have been much more difficult to carry out.
At the end of July, next summer, an international disaster relief exercise, "Co-operative Safeguard 97", will be held here in Iceland at the invitation of the Icelandic government. The exercise is part of the NATO Peace Co-operation and the first disaster relief exercise held under its auspices. It is intended to drill government and rescue organisations' reactions to a powerful earthquake. The exercise is an important contribution to the peace co-operation and a unique opportunity for Icelandic rescue units to work with foreign units and uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the Icelandic civil defence system.
About 20 foreign states have announced their intention to participate, and up to 500 foreign members of rescue services will take part. It will take place in Southwest of Iceland, but Icelandic rescue units from all over the country will participate. It is estimated that Icelandic participants could number about five to six hundred. Preparations for the exercise are conducted in close co-operation with the civil defence committees involved and its implementation is largely in the hands of the Icelandic Civil Defence.
In the relations between NATO and nations outside NATO, Russia and the Ukraine hold a special position. An agreement between NATO and the Ukraine on co-operation is in preparation, since a free and sovereign Ukraine is an important element in the security mosaic of Europe.
Extensive and successful co-operation with Russia will be of key importance for the future development of security in Europe. Negotiations are in progress between NATO and Russia on how to place their co-operation on a firm basis, since it is important to develop still further the co-operation which has already begun. The purpose of such an agreement is to ensure extensive consultation and possibilities for co-operation, even to the point of being able to adopt joint measures. It is hoped that such an agreement can be signed in the spring or early summer.
The Defence Co-operation
The defence co-operation with the United States remains the cornerstone of the security of this country, and the surveillance and defence role of the defence force in Iceland remains unaltered. However, there have been considerable changes in the personnel and equipment of the defence station over the past five years, which are a result of the changed and improving security situation.
The agreement between the Icelandic and US governments on the implementation of the Defence Treaty, which was signed in Reykjavík on 9 April 1996, is proceeding according to plan. The main issue is that there must always remain in the country such security alertness as we consider necessary.
In this context, it is important to bear in mind the changes which are now taking place in the security affairs of Europe and ensure that Iceland is not marginalised. The main principle of the alliance has always been equal security for all the Member States, and this must always be the essence of Iceland's position. The security interests of the countries on the northern flank of NATO must continue to be ensured after its enlargement to the East.
Since the beginning of last year, Iceland has had an observer status at the Disarmament Conference of the United Nations, where considerable progress has been made. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is one of two milestone agreements arising out of the Conference following the end of the Cold War. The other is the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which will take effect at the conference of the Member States on the 29th of this month. Work is in progress on the ratification by Iceland of these agreements as soon as possible.
The main future projects being discussed are agreements banning the use, production and stockpiling of antipersonnel land mines, an agreement banning the production of nuclear fissile materials for military use and nuclear disarmament in a wider context. There appears to be little likelihood of an agreement at the Conference on these new issues in the near future. However, work on an agreement banning land mines has been progressing outside the conference, the so-called "Ottawa-process". There are hopes that such an agreement can be signed this year. Iceland has supported this work wherever possible.
In Vienna, negotiations have also been in progress on the adaptation of the CFE to the altered situation in Europe in the wake of the changes in Europe and the proposed enlargement of NATO. It is important for these negotiations to produce results which will preserve the key role of the agreement in the limitation of conventional forces and continued reductions of conventional arms. This result must take account of the normal security interests of Russia, but at the same time the agreement must not prevent the enlargement of NATO.
The United Nations
Many of the chief problems confronting the nations of the world in the coming years can only be solved through the joint effort of many countries. These problems include growing poverty, hunger, overexploitation, pollution, drug problems, criminal activities and numerous other kinds of disastrous situations that individual countries are in most cases incapable of dealing with on their own. Not least for this reason, the United Nations will continue to play an extremely important role, as it is the only forum where all the nations of the world are granted an opportunity to make their contribution to the solution of the problems that are common to all of us who inhabit this Earth.
In order for the United Nations to meet the growing demands made on them, it is inevitable to undertake extensive reforms of the organisation's activities. It is therefore a matter of great satisfaction that Kofi Annan, the new Secretary General who took office at the beginning of this year, has put such reforms at the top of his agenda. Iceland will support this work.
Human rights are an inalienable part of international politics. The 53rd Meeting of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in Geneva is now drawing to a close, and Iceland, which has an observer status at the conference, has co-sponsored numerous resolutions criticising the human rights situation in various countries of the world, including Iran, Iraq, China, Cuba and East Timor. Iceland's support for the struggle for human rights is a known fact, and no one can doubt the sincerity and good intentions of our participation in this process.
In the forum of the United Nations, the Icelandic government has supported attempts to establish a permanent peace in the Middle East. It is a matter of great concern that the situation in the region has been steadily deteriorating, chiefly due to the unlawful and provocative actions of the present government of Israel in East Jerusalem, which is grist for the mill of extremists in the ranks of the Arabs. It will be impossible to ensure permanent peace in the region until all parties respect the letter and spirit of the peace agreement.
Many of Iceland's chief interests are being discussed in the United Nations. In recent years, the government has therefore sought to strengthen its position within the organisation. As of last year, Iceland is a member of the Economic and Social Council and now also has a representative in the UN committee on new and renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, Iceland also became an associate member of a special UN committee on peacekeeping.
A special session of the UN General Assembly on sustainable development will be held in New York in June on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Rio Conference. A special meeting of the Committee on Sustainable Development is now in progress in New York in preparation for the special session. The discussions at the meeting reflect the fact that the protection of the living resources of the sea is a growing element in sustainable development
Although discussions within the United Nations in this respect so far have mostly centred on the pollution of the sea, it may be assumed that there will be a growing emphasis on international monitoring of fisheries and fishing equipment. This is a discussion in which Iceland must participate actively in order to ensure that important interests of Iceland are not ignored. The Foreign Ministry will place special emphasis on monitoring carefully this aspect of the activities of the United Nations.
The Fisheries Programme of the United Nations University will start operating next year. It will draw on the expertise available in research institutes and universities in Reykjavík and Akureyri. It is hoped that the academy will be an important Icelandic contribution to development.
The United Nations have proclaimed the next year, 1998, to be the year of the ocean. The Icelandic government will appoint a working party to study in what manner Icelanders, who more than most are connected with the sea, can contribute from their extensive experience in this field.
The Foreign Ministry has now taken over responsibility for the affairs of the World Bank from the Ministry for Industry and Trade. As a result I have taken a seat on the Development Committee of the Bank, where I am now serving as Chairman for the Nordic and Baltic States. The Development Committee establishes the policy of the bank in the most important development issues at any given time. Over the past years, development co-operation has undergone great changes. Aid to developing countries is more and more dependent on the performance of the countries in question. Iceland has taken this position in its bilateral development co-operation with good results, as witnessed by our activities in southern Africa.
It is important to strengthen our participation in multinational development work, especially with a view to helping the poorest countries. In the context of developmental affairs, however, the total picture must be borne in mind. Very little progress will be made in countries where there is conflict, where equal rights human rights are downtrodden and where people's social needs are ignored. The Icelandic government has for some time now been contributing to a special UN Development Fund for Women. The UNIFEM-Association in Iceland has also received contributions in order to assist in projects in the Andes Mountains and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, which are designed to provide an economic foundation for the life struggle of women in those areas.
In the same way, Iceland's participation in the economic restructuring in Bosnia has centred on aid to the thousands of people who have been maimed in the war. The aid project is conducted in co-operation with the prosthetics company Össur Ltd., the World Bank and the health authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Decisions have also been made on projects in the field of infant and maternal care.
The World Trade Organization
The results of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation last December reflect the fact that the Organisation has performed well in its role as the first line of defence in the multilateral trading system and a driving force of liberal practices in global trade. Negotiations on freedom in basic telecommunications services took flight and they have now been concluded with the entry into force of commitments as of 1 January 1998. Iceland made commitments regarding general market access in tandem with our neighbouring countries and the liberalisation which has been in progress within the framework of the EEA.
An agreement has been reached on the abolition of tariffs on various products connected with information technology, such as computers, software and communications equipment. 40 countries are participants in this milestone agreement, and Iceland's participation is consistent with the future vision of the government on the Information Society. Through the agreement, the public and industries are granted free access to the information society and at the same time it supports the exports of the resource contained in Icelandic know-how.
With the basic telecommunications and information technology agreements, the WTO has laid the cornerstone for the trading system of the 21st century and a firm foundation for the increased prosperity of its Member States.
At this time, difficult negotiations on the further liberalisation of financial services are beginning again following a break. It is hoped that these negotiations will be concluded this year, and as before, Iceland will do what it can to ensure their success.
Discussions on the relationship between trade and environmental matters have been prominent within the WTO over the past few years, but unfortunately with little results as yet. In this area, as in others, the Organisation must show its mettle. However, this is an extremely complicated and multifaceted matter.
The Law of the Sea and Marine Resources
Over the past few years, the fishing of Icelandic vessels outside the Icelandic economic jurisdiction has brought substantial revenues into the Icelandic economy. Hopefully this will continue to be the case, but it must be borne in mind that exploitation of the fishing grounds on the high seas has increased dramatically, and the North-eastern Atlantic is no exception. It is of the utmost importance to bring under control all fishing which as yet are not subject to any kind of control.
Iceland recently ratified the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The essence of this agreement consists of rules on the co-operation of coastal states and states involved in high seas fisheries within the framework of regional fisheries organisations on the protection and regulation of fishing from migratory fish stocks.
At present, various regional organisations are being restructured in the light of these international developments. Iceland has participated actively in this work and placed great emphasis on it.
Over the past year, the Icelandic government has been involved in negotiations with neighbouring countries on the control of fishing from individual fish stocks. At the Annual Meeting of the NEAFC, the agreement reached last year on the division of fishing quotas for oceanic redfish on the Reykjanes Ridge was renewed. It is imperative to establish a comprehensive control over this fishing with the participation of all the parties involved.
Last December, a historic agreement was signed in Oslo between Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Norway, Russia and the European Union on fisheries from the Norwegian-Icelandic herring stock this year. Thus, for the first time, control has been established over the fishing of all the countries which have fished out of this stock. Iceland's share is acceptable. At a recent extraordinary meeting of the NEAFC, an agreement was concluded on the control of fisheries from the stock outside the jurisdiction of the Member States of the NEAFC, the so-called herring loophole, in this year. According to this agreement, the parties to the herring agreement are permitted to catch their entire quota within the herring loophole.
At a meeting of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organisation, NAFO, last autumn, the decision was made to continue the use of pursuit control in the shrimp fishing on the Flemish Bank this year. Following this decision, Iceland unilaterally established a quota of 8.800 tonnes catch for Icelandic vessels in the area this year, which involves substantial reduction of the catch from last year. This decision was unavoidable in light of the condition of the shrimp stock and has been met with understanding among our neighbouring countries.
Recently, discussions took place between Iceland, the Faeroes and Greenland on the condition of the stocks of redfish and Greenland halibut and fishing from these stocks. It is of extreme importance to reach a good consensus with our neighbours on common measures to protect these species.
It is safe to say that there is a growing understanding among the fisheries nations in the North Atlantic of the importance of co-operation in the protection and utilisation of marine resources. Recently, preparations have been made within the ministries on bilateral negotiations with Russia on fisheries, which will hopefully be concluded within the next few months and strengthen the co-operation between the countries in fisheries and trade.
Our negotiations on cod fishing in the Barents Sea have not been successful yet, which is unfortunate. It is clear that the Icelandic government has shown its will to solve this problem, but in our view this will has been somewhat lacking in our negotiating partners. It is important to bring the fisheries of Icelandic vessels in the area under control, so efforts will be continued to seek methods of resolving the problem.
In the wake of capelin fisheries of Danish vessels within the Icelandic economic jurisdiction north of the Island of Kolbeinsey, disagreement surfaced once again between Iceland and Denmark on the delimitation of the stretch of ocean between Iceland and Greenland as well as the area between Iceland and the Faeroes. The governments of both countries have emphasised the need to find a permanent solution to the problem, and meetings between officials have been held for this purpose. These discussions have been amicable and useful and they will be continued in the coming months.
It is the firm policy of Iceland that all the living resources of the sea should be utilised in a sustainable manner. These resources include whales, which are an important element in the living resources of the sea. The position regarding protection and utilisation of whales must be governed by the same basic principles as all other Icelandic resources. The question is not whether Iceland will take up whaling once again in Icelandic waters but when it will do so. In this respect, it is important to maintain close consultation and co-operation with all the countries concerned.
It is clear that fundamental changes are in progress in these times, and next autumn will be a time of transition. The Intergovernmental Conference should be over and the NATO Summit will have made its decision on the first group of new member states.
For this reason, it will be appropriate to submit to the Althing a general report on the state of foreign affairs describing the situation in greater detail than an address like this one can hope to do. This report will be submitted next winter during the course of the regular autumn deliberations on foreign affairs.
It is an established fact that few countries are more dependent on international relations than Iceland. Without vigorous foreign trade, living conditions in Iceland would not be comparable to the highest standards of our neighbouring countries, as they are now. By the same token, we are dependent on our allies as regards the security and defences of the country. Few nations are more dependent on efficiency with respect to the organisation and administration of the Foreign Service and on a continued broad consensus on the basic principles of our foreign policy.