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Steingrímur Hermannsson ( ) (born 22 June 1928) was the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Early childhood

Steingrímur's father was Hermann Jónasson, another former Prime Minister. Being the son a prominent official, Steingrímur enjoyed a relatively care-free upbringing in a country stricken by the Great Depression. As a young boy he had an exceptional proximity to Iceland's World War II politics, overhearing state affairs being discussed in his father's living room.

Education

Not wanting to follow his father's footsteps into politics, Steingrímur went to the U.S.marker in 1948, studying engineering in Chicagomarker, and later at Caltechmarker. After returning to his native country and experiencing troubles both in his private life and business career, he eventually entered politics in the 1960s. He was elected to the Althing (Icelandic Parliament) for the Progressive Party in 1971. He became party chairman in 1979.

Politics

Steingrímur served as Prime Minister from 1983 to 1987 and again from 1988 to 1991. He also served for a time as Minister of Justice, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Agriculture (1978–79), Minister of Fisheries and Communications (1980–83) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1987–88). He was chairman of the Progressive Party from 1979 to 1994. After that he was manager of the Central Bank of Icelandmarker until his retirement in 1998.

His legacy as Prime Minister is somewhat controversial, with many considering him the last representative of "the old system" in Icelandic politics, which was allegedly plagued by political favoritism and corruption . That system was gradually dismantled by the successive governments lead by Davíð Oddsson, who implemented huge economic and administrative reforms. Steingrímur's supporters however, state that he did a good job of coping in the difficult economic circumstances in the 1980s and early 1990s.

International affairs

Internationally, his greatest moment as Prime Minister came in 1986, when he hosted the Reykjavik Summit of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan. Although not considered a success at the time, the summit paved the way for the ending of the Cold War, and the Icelandic government's management of the event was widely commended. In 1991, during the January Events in Lithuaniamarker, Steingrímur expressed strong support for Vytautas Landsbergis, Chairman of Lithuanian Parliament. Shortly after, Icelandmarker was the first country to recognize the independence of Lithuaniamarker from Soviet Unionmarker .

Steingrímur first kept a low profile in his retirement, rarely voicing his opinion of current affairs. He was however a founding member of Heimssýn, an organization opposed to Iceland's entry of the European Union, and became increasingly critical of the Progressive Party's policies. He gave public support to "The Iceland Movement", an ad hoc environmental movement which ran (unsuccessfully) in the 2007 Althing elections, appearing in campaign advertisements on TV. As a result of these activities, he has mostly lost the informal status of the Progressive party's "Grand Old Man", that many had expected him to play.

Today Steingrímur is a well liked and respected elder statesman, and was considered as a potential candidate for the 1996 presidential elections. But he quickly declined that honour, stating his intention to retire at the age of 70. His memoirs, published in three volumes in 1998–2000, became bestsellers.

Family

Steingrímur's son, Guðmundur Steingrímsson is active in Icelandic politics. He first ran for the Althing in the 2007 elections, for the Social Democratic Alliance. In early 2009, however, he switched sides and joined his grandfather's and father's Progressive Party.

References

  1. http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter/w5_show?p_r=4097&p_d=62813&p_k=1



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