Iceland president at anti-drugs event

 

THE PRESIDENT of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, said at a conference here last night, that European integration and the abolition of national borders brought many good things, but it also meant the drug business had become “pan European”.

Mr Grimsson also spoke about Iceland’s economic turnaround and the people’s refusal in 2008 to prop up failed banks after the president had insisted on a referendum on government legislation to do so.

He said the crash had meant Iceland and Europe too had to face up to whether democracy was more important than the financial markets. “The reason Iceland is coming out of this crisis earlier is we defined it not as an economic crisis but as one of democracy.”

His attitude was that “the great contribution of Europe to the world is not financial markets, it’s democracy”, he said.

Mr Grimsson was speaking at the 19th European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD) conference for mayors at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, hosted by the town council and Staffanstorp, Sweden. It was attended by 150 people, mainly from the Baltic and Scandinavian countries and during the conference the president was presented with an award for his work for youth.

The only way to beat the drugs trade was at the local, not the national, level – and it was not very complicated, the president said.

“The only way is to create a defence mechanism among the young people themselves, to build up their confidence so that they refuse to be victims.” One of the great privileges of his presidency was being able to promote a simple but effective method of preventing drug addiction.

Practice and research he was involved in as a professor at the University of Reykjavik two decades ago had shown that “a very simple method” kept young people away from drugs.

These were family time of one hour a day, eating or watching television, sport participation and asking young people to wait until they were 18 before taking alcohol.

“Doing all three factors meant there was less than a 1 per cent chance of becoming a drug addict,” he said.

The president hosts a drug prevention day in Iceland aimed at primary schools.

He has introduced this method through ECAD to other European cities and it is also being used in South America.