14 NOV 2010
An investigation into Icelandic attitudes towards the European Union, by freelance journalist Michael Huguenin.
Hreidar Arni Magnusson looks tired as he enters his home.
The Reykjavik-based hairdresser scampers about the kitchen trying to get dinner ready. It’s been another long day.
Hreidar has been packing in the hours at his hair salon, Salon Veh, in the centre of Reykjavik. Despite Iceland’s economic crisis people still need haircuts.
“We are still busy but we’re not making any money,” Hreidar says.
“We have no profit, you know?”
“The profits are getting eaten up because we cannot raise the prices endlessly.”
Iceland’s coalition government, led by the Social Democratic Alliance (SDA), reckons the European Union (EU) is the solution to the country’s money troubles and that idea was initially supported by a majority of Icelanders. But just two years after the collapse of Iceland’s banking system, Hreidar is one of a growing number of Icelanders who don’t want to join the EU.
“It was a lot on the news here how the safety net of the European Union worked for Greece. The Germans they didn’t want to help,” points out Hreidar.
“So what does it mean?”
“Is it as great as it’s supposed to be? I don’t know.”
The EU’s traditional strength, the economy, has taken a battering this year. That makes membership a lot less inviting. A protective European brotherhood didn’t seem so bad to Icelanders as their life savings disappeared late in 2008. Now the pendulum of public opinion is swinging back.
Svavar Ingi Hermannsson is another one of the 320,000 odd Icelanders trying to stay afloat. The information security specialist has just got a new job at BSI Iceland, an assessment and certification company. Svavar’s previous employer survived the initial economic crash quite well and then tried to take advantage of its relative strength.
“They took various risks, which had they paid off would have made the company a lot of money but unfortunately it didn’t pay off,” explains Svavar.
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