A proposal by a former Icelandic journalist that his country should become part of Norway was mostly meant as a joke on social media, but he was surprised when more than 2,000 fellow citizens took him seriously. With the country still facing severe economic problems, they’ve latched on to the idea of becoming a new county in Norway.
“I expected to be yelled at and called a Quisling (traitor),” Gunnar Smári Egilsson told newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday. “But folks took this seriously. I’m amazed over the response that’s mostly been positive.”
Egilsson said he actually was a bit afraid about the reaction he’d get when he formed a group on Facebook called Iceland – Norway’s 20th county. He’d been inspired to propose that Iceland’s roughly 320,000 residents could join Norway after a lengthy visit to Norway, combined with his opinion that his fellow Icelanders lacked hope and vision for the future.
More than than 2,600 people had joined his group by this week, agreeing that after so much economic turmoil in recent years, the country is simply too small to rebuild a functional welfare state. Too many people, Egilsson said, are still struggling to make ends meet.
“Iceland is too little to be able to offer its citizens a modern welfare state,” Egilsson told Dagsavisen. “It’s like two people trying to move a piano up to the third floor. We’re doomed to fail.”
So Egilsson claims the country must choose between welfare or independence, pointing to the country’s long history of crises. The most recent stems from the financial collapse of 2008, when the Icelandic state had to take over the country’s two largest banks, Landsbanki and Glitnir. The economy took a dive and politicians had to resign. Egilsson claims there have been other economic crises since the the country became independent from Denmark in 1944.
“Independence hasn’t been good for Iceland,” he said.
Lots in common with Norway
Many agree with him that Iceland has a lot in common with Norway, as young nations that developed from being among Europe’s poorest into creating a high standard of living. They share a Nordic culture with similar languages, climate and industries.”With Iceland’s sea and land areas, Norway could really become a super power in the Arctic,” claimed Egilsson.
While author and critic Gudmundur Andri Thorsson rejects the idea as “ridiculous and quite humiliating,” noting that most Icelanders don’t even want to join the EU much less give up their sovereignty, others embrace it.
“All great journeys begin with an idea,” said Magnus Thor Haftsteinson, another journalist, author and former elected representative to Iceland’s Alltinget, its national assembly. “Norway and Iceland together – that could be a great state! But only if both sides want it.” There was no immediate reaction from Norwegian politicians.