President of Iceland says "independence in itself can never be negative"

Ólafur Grímsson argues in Quebec that "the small size of a nation is not an obstacle to its success", "independence is not just a formality, is determined by the will of the people " · Icelandic leader quotes Icesave dispute as an example of "democratic choice" · Grímsson highlights that small- and medium-sized countries are on the rise in Europe

"Independence in itself can never be negative," yesterday said the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The sentence has a special dimension given the fact that he pronounced it in Quebec and as he was sharing a press conference with Quebec Prime Minister Philippe Couillard, who opposes the independence of this mainly French-speaking American nation.

As reported by Ici Radio Canada, Grímsson said this after being asked whether small Iceland could be interested in giving up its sovereignty. "Independence is not just a formality, and is determined by the will of the people," the President said. He further added: "I do not think the small size of a nation is an obstacle to its success ".

Grímsson stated his intention was not giving advice to any other country, but merely to discuss the case of Iceland. The President of Iceland recalled that Icelanders, via two consecutive referendums, where able in 2010 and 2011 to decide whether or not they wanted to take on the debt that the bank Icesave dispute had contracted with the UK and the Netherlands. "We were able to take a democratic choice," Grímsson said.

Small- and medium-sized countries on the rise in Europe, Grímsson argues

Before visiting Quebec, Grímsson was last week in Catalonia. In an interview to the Catalan public radio station, the President of Iceland said he was not in the position to judge the relations between Catalonia and Spain or the Catalan process towards self-determination.

However, Grímsson said he could talk about the Icelandic example. The President recalled that, when the country declared independence in 1944, its population was merely at 160,000, and "many people" said that such a small nation could not exist for long time. But seven decades after that, Grímsson noted, Iceland enjoys a welfare society -one of the world's best, he argued. Grímsson highlighted the fact that small- and medium-sized countries are on the rise in Europe.

(Picture: Ólafur Grímsson / image by World Economic Forum.)