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Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK69, ICELAND UNVEILS PLANS FOR UNIVERSITY ON KEFLAVIK BASE ONE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07REYKJAVIK69 2007-03-16 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0069 0751728
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161728Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3202
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 0241
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0291
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000069 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/PPD 
OSLO FOR DATT 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: NATO MARR PREL KPAO IC
 
SUBJECT:  ICELAND UNVEILS PLANS FOR UNIVERSITY ON KEFLAVIK BASE ONE 
YEAR AFTER BASE CLOSURE ANNOUNCEMENT 
 
1. Summary:  The one-year anniversary of the March 15, 2006 
announcement of the closing of U.S. Naval Air Station Keflavik 
(NASKEF) passed quietly, marked only by the announcement that part 
of the former base will become a university-level institution 
focusing on international education and technology.  End Summary. 
 
2. There was no media coverage of the base closing in the weeks 
leading up to the anniversary of the announcement.  On March 14, the 
day before the anniversary, Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde mentioned 
in a speech to the Althing (Parliament) that the base closing, 
although unexpected, had resulted in the transfer of valuable 
property to the Iceland and opened economic development 
opportunities. 
 
3. Haarde's speech was a prelude to a ceremony held in the base's 
former chapel on March 15 unveiling the plans for a university-level 
education center.  The ceremony was covered March 16 by leading 
daily Morgunbladid, under the headline, "Moving Forward at Keflavik 
Base."   During the ceremony local officials of Reykjanesbaer, the 
Keflavik Airport Development Corporation (Kadeco) and the University 
of Iceland signed a declaration of intent in cooperation with 
several business enterprises to establish a new international 
academic community on part of the former base.  The plan is to 
exploit the area's strengths including energy, air traffic and 
services and international affairs.  Representatives of businesses, 
including Icelandair, The Blue Lagoon, Glitnir bank, Geysir Green 
Energy, and the air traffic control Flugstodir, were also present. 
 
4. Local officials could barely contain their glee. "We are forging 
plowshares out of swords," declared Reykjanesbaer Mayor Arni 
Sigfusson at the signing ceremony.  He said one of the most 
attractive characteristics of the base is its close proximity to 
Keflavik International Airport.  "You could say this is an ideal 
location."  In a later interview with nationwide broadcaster 
RUV-Radio, Mayor Sigfusson said the base had "first-class" 
facilities, and that the sports facilities, which include a 
gymnasium, large indoor swimming pool and gymnastic equipment, are 
probably the best in the entire country. 
 
5. Runolfur Agustsson, former rector at Bifrost University, has been 
studying the feasibility of a university at the base site.  He said 
the aim of the educational center will be three-fold:  to strengthen 
the general educational level in Reykjanesbaer, to strengthen 
vocational training in the area, and to stress university-level 
education in English to attract more foreign students and teachers. 
He said the structure of the educational center has not yet been 
determined, but he believes a university preparatory department 
could begin operations in the fall. "We foresee an academic 
community of 1800-2000 people in seven years' time," he said. 
Agustsson said he expects the University of Iceland to be the key 
participant in the project. 
 
6. The CEO of Kadeco, Jon Astradur Jonsson, told post that the 
university project is not the only project planned for the base.  He 
said that there are still several others in the works.  Jonsson said 
that the buildings are pretty much in "move-in" condition for the 
university, so minimal work will need to be done. 
 
7. Embassy Comment:  The lack of media and press attention to the 
anniversary of the announcement underlines that the steam has gone 
out of the issue of the base closure-as Social Democratic Alliance 
leader Ossur Skarphedinsson told the Ambassador this week, Iceland 
has "moved on to other issues."  The reiteration at the ceremony 
yesterday that the U.S. had left the facilities in first-class 
condition was a welcome acknowledgement of the fine work of former 
base commander Captain Mark Laughton and his team in maintaining and 
then shutting down the base.  The establishment of a university on 
the former base will be an excellent use of the real estate and 
facilities we turned over, and will have a permanent impact on the 
wellbeing of the Icelandic public. 
 
VAN VOORST