On 1 September the Althingi Parliament approved, with no dissenting votes, a Bill of law on National Security Council, that was submitted to Althingi last spring by Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Permanent members of the National Security Council are the Prime Minister, who will serve as the Chairman of the Council, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of the Interior as well as the Permanent Secretaries of the respective three Ministries. Furthermore, two Members of Parliament are permanent members of the Council, one from a party in government and the other from the opposition. The Council also includes the Director General of the Icelandic Coast Guard, the National Commissioner of the Police and a representative from ICE-SAR. The National Security Council can also call on other representatives to serve on the Council on an ad hoc basis if circumstances or subject matters require.
The National Security Council will, amongst other issues, monitor the compliance with the National Security Policy for Iceland, which was approved by the Althingi earlier this year and be a consultative forum for national security issues. The Council will also carry out regular assessments of the security outlook. The law requires the National Security Council, in cooperation with academia, think-tanks and media, to promote an open and democratic debate on national security issues. The National Security Council will, on an annual basis, inform Althingi on the implementation of the National Security Policy and consult the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee of any issues that might affect the National Security Policy and its implementation.
"This is a historical moment. This is the first time in history of the Republic that we have e a National Security Policy and a National Security Council that takes a holistic approach to security matters and the manyfold challenges that we are faced with. The bill has undergone positive changes during parliamentary procedures and it is particularly welcome to observe the broad consensus in the Parliament, which is of upmost importance when dealing with such a fundamental issue," says Lilja.
The passing of the bill on National Security Council concludes a process that started in 2009 when a committee established by Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir handed in a report on risk assessment for Iceland. In 2011 the Parliament approved a Parliamentary Resolution tabled by Össur Skarphéðinsson on the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee that was tasked with formulation of a National Security Policy for Iceland, based on, amongst other things, the previously mentioned report on risk assessment for Iceland. In the beginning of 2014 the Parliamentary Committee handed in its recommendations to Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, on which he then based his Parliamentary Resolution on a National Security Policy for Iceland. That Resolution was approved in April this year. The National Security Policy instructs, inter alia, the passing of a bill on the establishment of a National Security Council tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Policy. A bill of law on the establishment of the Council was presented to Parliament in May this year by Lilja Alfreðsdóttir.
"I am proud that we have managed to finalize this important work with a broad political consensus. Four Foreign Ministers in three governments have been part of this work with the good guidance of the Parliament at any given time. We stand, therefore, on solid ground for the journey ahead," says Lilja.