Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010

Icelandic views on repaying debt to British and Dutch

Icelanders tell the BBC what they think of their president's decision to reject a bill to repay $5.4bn (£3.4bn) to the British and Dutch governments in the wake of an Icelandic bank collapse.

Many think the Icesave bill is too hard on taxpayers, while others see it as the only way to restore their country to economic normality - and allow it to join the EU. The Icelandic parliament is preparing a referendum on the bill.

Steinar Sorensson, 37, Keflavik, Iceland

President Grimsson is fighting for a better deal for Iceland and I totally agree with him.

Steinar Sorensson

I was one of the 60,000 people who asked him to reject the compensation bill.

What was on offer - something like 5.5% interest rates - was unacceptable. It would have put too big a financial burden on us.

It would have meant the British and Dutch governments could come here and take over our natural resources.

Of course I think British and Dutch people should be able to get their money back - but from the banks themselves, not from the people of Iceland.

I hope we can reach a fair deal soon. I have five children - too much debt will be bad for their future. Taxes are already higher and they've cut back on healthcare.

Eysteinn Sigursteinsson, 34, Reykjavik, Iceland

I believed the compensation bill was the best our government could achieve, so I thought the president should sign it.

Eysteinn Harry Sigursteinsson

His refusal gave Europe the wrong picture of us. They thought we were not going to pay. We always said we would, we just needed a better contract.

There are so few of us in Iceland, less than 400,000, so it's hard to be responsible for what a few crazy bankers did to us. The debt could kill us.

Since the president's refusal to sign, I think things are changing. I haven't made my mind up on how I would vote in a referendum on the Icesave bill now.

It's important to finish this and move on, to continue building up the country.

We have two young children, and my salary and my wife's have both dropped because our hours have been cut.

Ingvi Steinsson Snædal, 24, Reykjavik, Iceland

It was a really bad deal for Iceland and it was right that the president rejected the bill.

Ingvi Steinn Steinsson Snędal

I strongly agree that Britain and the Dutch should be repaid, it's just that the deal was so unfair.

There's so much pressure from the IMF and the EU on our government to finalise this - the rush might prevent us getting a better deal.

The government which approved the bill is in power right now because it promised it would get us into the EU.

But I don't want Iceland to join the EU. I come from a small fishing village and we would have to make so many damaging changes to our farming and fishing industries.

I didn't agree with the government which led us from being a fishing economy to a banking economy - and neither do I support this one's attempts to clear up the mess.

Thorstein Halldorsson, 48, Hafnarfjordur, Iceland

I wanted the bill to go through. The government's had a year and a half to sort this out and it's all too slow.

Thorsteinn Halldorsson

We're wasting time and it's hurting my business and those of others.

I don't like Icesave, it's a horrible, horrible bill, but let's get over this hurdle. If it has to be renegotiated, it can always be done later. I think there's a line in the bill anyway, that says it can be reworked.

The taxpayer is now going to spend 160m Kronur [$1.3m; £800,000] on a referendum. I'll vote for approving the bill.

What bothers me the most is not the outrage of Icesave, because we have other outstanding debt issues. It's the lack of judicial accountability.

Why is attention not being paid to the criminals responsible, to the dirt bags living in fancy apartments in London? Why aren't we grabbing that money and taking it back?

Sigvaldi Asgeirsson, 59, Borgarnes, Western Iceland

I think it's right to let the people have their say. I was one of those who signed the petition urging the president to reject the bill.

Sigvaldi Asgeirsson

I think it's important that Iceland says straight off that we cannot manage the payments as presented in this bill, rather than say yes, but default later.

I think we will need outside negotiation with a third party, like Germany or France, for us to reach a fair deal with Britain and the Netherlands.

I would vote against the current contract in a referendum.

I think Iceland's Social Democratic Party, which is the bigger party in parliament, is expecting the EU to bail us out from the deal later on. But I don't think the EU is doing any bailouts at the moment.

The financial crisis has changed things. My debts have grown, my salary has shrunk. I will soon be looking at a possible default on our personal debts. I think about a third of the population is in the same position as me.

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