Iceland Tops Global Gender Gap Index for 10th Time

Women's Day Off Iceland

Iceland has topped the Global Gender Gap Index for the 10th year in a row. Vísir reported first. According to the Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum, Iceland has closed more than 85.8% of its overall gender gap, holding the top spot for the 10th consecutive year.

“[Iceland] has remained one of the fastest-improving countries in the world since 2006,” the World Economic Forum website states. The reality is not entirely positive, however. “Despite its top performance, the country has seen a slight regression on economic participation and opportunity after an increased gender gap in the number of women legislators, senior officials and managers,” the report continues.

Trailing Iceland on the list are Norway in second place and Sweden in third, with Finland, Nicaragua, Rwanda, New Zealand, Phillipines, Ireland, and Namibia filling out the top ten.

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Iceland’s ranking reflects the great work that has been done in the country to close the gender gap on the levels of government, academia, and grassroots. “We have to thank the Icelandic women’s movement greatly for clearing the way and pushing for changes in society,” she stated. “The main thing is to understand that gender equality has not been achieved and that it doesn’t happen by itself.” She pointed out that violence against women has not yet been uprooted in Iceland, likely in reference to accounts that have come forth under the banner of the #metoo movement. “We still have work to do and I look forward to leading this issue on behalf of the government in the next few years,” Katrín added.

In 2019, gender equality issues will be transferred from the agenda of the Ministry of Welfare to the Prime Minister’s Office in order to increase their weight and further enforce the integration of gender equality into government policy.

Former Politician Sentenced in Panama Papers Case

Judge's gavel

Júlíus Vífill Ingvarsson, former Independence Party city councillor, has just been sentenced to ten months probation by the District Court of Reykjavík for money laundering, RÚV reports. The sentence is to be suspended for two years. Júlíus himself was not present at the sentencing.

Tax authorities began investigating Júlíus’ financial dealings after his offshore company Silwood Foundation appeared in the Panama Papers in April 2016. Though other Icelanders, including prominent politicians, have been investigated by the Directorate of Internal Revenue for information revealed in the infamous papers, Júlíus is the only Icelander who has been charged as a result.

Júlíus confessed to not paying taxes on funds that he had in a foreign bank account, the exact amount of which was not revealed. He was charged with having laundered ISK 49-57 million ($400,000-470,000/€350-410,000), said to be profits from tax evasion.

Júlíus denied the charges when they were confirmed last September. In a statement submitted to the district court, he asserted the only reason criminal charges were filed against him was because he was a former politician – that others would not have received such treatment. He also criticised that the investigation was headed by a member of the Left Green Movement and said this disqualified the individual from conducting research into the case.

Klaustur Informant Appears in Court

Bára Halldórsdóttir Klaustur scandal

A crowd of supporters clapped and cheered for Bára Halldórsdóttir, responsible for the now-infamous Klaustur recordings, when she appeared in court yesterday shortly after 3.00pm. It remains unclear whether the four MPs whose sexist, ableist, and homophobic comments Bára recorded at a Reykjavík bar and sent to media will formally file a case against her, RÚV reports.

Suspect collaborators

Reimar Pétursson, representing the four MPs in the District Court of Reykjavík today, stated his clients believe the recording of their conversation at Klaustur bar was a gross violation of their right to privacy. Reimar said they were reviewing whether to file a lawsuit and by requesting permission to call on witness testimony, they wanted to confirm how the recording had been carried out. “It should be possible to see exactly how the defendant committed this violation,” he stated, adding that it was important to see whether Bára hid the fact she was recording from the parties present or whether she had any collaborators. Reimar stated that his clients do not believe Bára’s own account of the event to be credible.

Nothing to hide

Auður Tinna Aðalbjarnardóttir, Bára’s lawyer, opposed the MPs’ demand for witness testimony and surveillance footage. She pointed to the fact that Bára has discussed the events of the evening in detail in media and has confirmed her willingness to do so in court, and that the MPs would need very strong legal reasons to request additional data. She added that the Data Protection Authority was already investigating the case at the request of the MPs, and that they or the police are the correct party to consider such data, not the court. The judge stated a ruling would be made before the end of the week.

“Just me and my coffee cup”

After leaving the courtroom, Bára insisted to reporters that she had neither collaborators nor company at Klaustur bar on the night she made the recording, stating it was “just me and my coffee cup.” She said she still feels in the dark about the MPs intentions after the court appearance. “I thought it would be much clearer what this is all about when I walked out but I’m still not any closer to that except that I think the plaintiff wants to get data,” she stated.

Locals Request Referendum on Big Industry

Stakksberg Silicon Plant Helguvík.

Thousands of residents in Reykjanesbær, Southwest Iceland, are petitioning local authorities to hold a binding referendum on the future of two silicon plants in the area, RÚV reports. One of the plants, formerly owned by United Silicon, has been plagued by operational troubles since its initial opening in 2016. It remains unclear whether such a referendum would be legal and if so, binding.

The municipal council of Reykjanesbær has decided to consult the Parliamentary Committee on Local Government on the legality of holding a referendum to determine the future of the two plants in Helguvík. Stakksberg, a subsidiary of Arionbanki bank which took over United Silicon’s plant when that company went bankrupt, has asserted that such a referendum would have no legal validity, as the company holds all the necessary licences for operation. The company says ceasing operations would make Stakksberg liable for damages.

Trausti Fannar Valsson, assistant professor in administrative law, says 20% support is needed to push through a local referendum like the one Reykjanesbær residents are hoping for. What happens next, however, is not so simple. The municipal council would have the authority to word the question and to decide whether the referendum is binding or simply advisory. He also adds that “it is not possible to conduct a referendum on something that would be against the law or lead to laws not being met by the municipality.” It is unclear whether a referendum on the two plants would constitute such a breach.