Dutch "disappointed" at Iceland vote

10th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Netherlands expressed disappointment Sunday at Icelandic voters' rejection of a deal to compensate it for the 2008 collapse of Icesave bank, saying the matter was now "in the hands of justice".

Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager was "very disappointed" by the resounding "no" in Saturday's referendum on repaying the Netherlands and Britain 3.9 billion euros ($5.6 billion).

"It is not good for Iceland, nor for the Netherlands," the finance ministry quoted de Jager as saying about the outcome.

Insisting that Iceland was obliged to repay the money, the minister said "the time for negotiations is over" and "the matter is now in the hands of justice".

The matter will now be left to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court, which plays the role of the European Court of Justice for European Economic Area members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said the ministry.

Spokesman Niels Redeker told AFP that a procedure before the EFTA court had been interrupted during the negotiations with Iceland.

"The authority has already pronounced in our favour" in an earlier, intermediate, ruling, he said.

"Now that the agreement was rejected by Icelandic voters, we return to the judicial terrain."

The debt concerns money that Britain and the Netherlands put up to compensate 340,000 of their citizens who lost money when Icesave, an online bank, went under at the height of the global financial crisis.

The latest deal, laboriously negotiated among the three nations over more than two years, was considered more favourable to Iceland than a previous accord rejected in a January 2010 referendum by 93 percent of Icelanders.

It would have allowed Iceland to repay the debt gradually until 2046, at a 3.0 percent interest rate for the 1.3 billion euros it owes The Netherlands and at a 3.3 percent rate for the remainder owed to Britain.

The amount worked out to some 12,000 euros per citizen of the 320,000-strong island nation, before interest.

Redeker said the Dutch government remained in close contact with Britain, which said earlier it was prepared to drag Iceland through the international courts to recoup its money.

The Dutch association Icesaving, which groups about 250 duped investors, urged the foreign ministry to sue the Icelandic government.

"Enough talk," it said in a statement.

Reykjavik insisted on Sunday that it had "no problem" to repay its debts.

© 2011 AFP

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