Row brews over Iceland Ministry of Fisheries merger plan –

Row brews over Iceland Ministry of Fisheries merger plan Published:  17 June, 2010

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir

A POLITICAL row is brewing in Iceland over plans to merge the all important Ministry of Fisheries with other government departments.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir is preparing to submit a bill to parliament that seeks to bring the number of ministries down from 12 to nine; but some government members are unhappy.

Among the proposals is a provision for merging the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Tourism and the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture together into a new Ministry for Employment and Innovation.

Jon Bjarnason, the current Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, says he does not intend to support the bill and two other Left Green MPs have also indicated their opposition to the bill.The Left Greens are the minor coalition partner in government along with Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir’s Social Democrats.

Jon Bjarnason told  the Iceland news site that the bill is ill-prepared and seeks to get rid of the fisheries and agriculture ministry right at the time it is needed most: while the economy is reliant on the two sectors and in the middle of Iceland’s EU application process. Fisheries and agriculture policy are central to European Union policy. He insists his opposition to the bill is not from fear for his job, but rather a response to the concerns of Left Green party members, farmers and fishermen.

A cross political committee will look into and comment on the bill this summer and it is unlikely it will come up for debate in parliament before the autumn term. But the plan is also likely to be opposed by Iceland’s fishing industry which would view as a move to effectively downgrade the industry. Fish accounts for more than 40 per cent of Iceland’s total exports.