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Referring International Dispute to Referenda: Comparing the two Icelandic Referendums on Icesave

Eirikur Bergmann
University of Iceland
Eirikur Bergmann
University of Iceland
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Abstract

In wake of the International Financial Crisis hitting Iceland hard in Autumn 2008 – when its oversized banks collapsed – it entered into bitterly fought dispute with the British and Dutch governments over responsibilities of deposits in the fallen Icelandic owned Icesave bank in Holland and the UK. The British and Dutch governments were able to pressure the Icelandic government into signing agreements where Iceland accepted liability. This angered Icelandic public opinion. In extraordinary moves the largely ceremonial President of Iceland refused signing parliamentary bills necessary for implementing the agreements, referring them to national referendums. This paper compares the two Icelandic referendums on Icesave, in 2010 and 2012.