Hoppa yfir valmynd
11. júní 2012 Dómsmálaráðuneytið

Ávarp á ráðstefnu Norræna vegasambandsins í Reykjavík 11. júní 2012

Ávarp Ögmundar Jónassonar innanríkisráðherra á ráðstefnu Norræna vegasambandsins í Reykjavík 11. júní 2012

Nordic road congress

Góðir ráðstefnugestir, dear delegates from near and -afar.

It is an honour to address this conference of the Nordic Road Association  and to bid you who come from abroad welcome to Reykjavík and to Iceland. We are truly glad to have you in our country and we are thankful to the weather gods to receive you well. Iceland has chaired the Nordic Road Association for the past four years and I certainly hope that the chairman of the Association, your host and main organizer of this event, Hreinn Haraldsson, who now has opened the conference, shall not be too hard on you, so that you will have time to look around and socialize. I have a theory about conferences, namely that what happens in the coffee bar is often of no less importance than what happens in the lecture hall. Personal discussions and establishing contacts and personal ties and acquaintances should never be undervalued in international events.

I had the pleasure to attend the World Road Forum in Mexico last September. I was impressed with the professionalism that characterized the whole event and in particular the way in which a balance was kept between, on the one hand, being informative and on the other hand, providing a platform for discussion and the exchange of views. This I think is of vital importance when it comes to discussing policy making.

As far as I participated in the discussions that took place in Mexico I advocated for more democracy in the decision making processes in the fields of communication and road construction. I saw it – and still see it -  as a weakness when the decision making process is too much on the premises of money providers from the financial world, eager contractors and politicians. It is all too often forgotten to ask the payers, whether it be taxpayers or those who pay user charges, what they want. In this country our experience is that the latter group is more modest in their demands and more to the point when it comes to road safety, than those from the aforementioned groups who tend to be generous when it comes to tax payers money. I think we are approaching a time when the payers have had enough of such enforced feeding. So I reiterate my remarks from Mexico: More democracy into the decision making processes.

This does not change the fact that the general public in Iceland is greatly enthusiastic about improving our road system. Yes I use the word enthusiastic when it comes to the general public´s concern in this respect and involvement in the debate on road improvement and road safety.

In my lifetime we have taken enormous strides forward, not to mention in the last few decades or years. You will not find an Icelander who does not understand the importance and value to our society in improving the road network, making it better and safer. Since I became minister of transport in the fall of 2010, I have, on numerous occasions, when we have celebrated the opening of new roads, bridges or tunnels connecting towns and villages which were isolated with bad road connections, -  on such occasions I have experienced the relief of the communities involved when improvements are made. No public meetings in the countryside attract greater attendance than meetings on communications and road construction. So when Hreinn Haraldsson takes to the road he has a bigger audience than do our pop- groups.

One thing I want to mention since it has to do with policy- and decision-making  procedures and processes. In Iceland we are reorganizing the institutional framework in communication - putting under one roof road construction, seaborne traffic and harbours and partly aviation. This will not make any fundamental change for the Icelandic Road Administration since it will be the backbone of the new institution.
But, however, change there will be, not only in the institutional or organizational sense, but hopefully also mentally; a change in the mind, in the way we conceive things when we envisage communication in a wholistic way – when we think about the possibilities in improving communications – whether it be on land, on sea or in the air.

Iceland has gone through great financial difficulties. This has manifested itself amongst other things in drastic cuts in public expenditure. On road construction we now allocate only half the resources we did five years ago. But the nation has a good grasp of these realities. Icelanders understand that we must downsize for the time being.
The building we are in now, Harpa, was a hole in the ground at the time of the financial crash in October 2008. At the time there was talk of filling the hole and simply forget about unrealistic dreams of the past. But as it turned out a consensus emerged that we should proceed with the job; after all this was to be a house of culture, of conferences, where people could come together enjoying the arts and communicating with others: In short doing things together.
And this is what we knew in our hearts was the key to getting out of our troubles – togetherness -  elevating our spirit with culture, music, theatre - and strengthening our societal ties – within our communities and in society at large – and internationally with friends and colleagues.

This is why a conference like this is of importance to us and hopefully to you as well.
Have a good conference – I hope Iceland will receive you well.




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