Russian Bombers Enter NATO Airspace Near Iceland


Two unknown aircraft entered NATO airspace near Iceland yesterday morning, according to a press release from the Icelandic Coast Guard. The aircraft were later identified as Russian bomber planes, both Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear F) models. The two planes did not report to Icelandic air traffic control upon entering the area, nor did they have their radar active.

Two fighter aircraft of the Italian Air Force, stationed in Iceland for NATO exercises, flew to meet the planes. The Russian planes were located in NATO airspace but outside Icelandic airspace. Russian military aircraft last entered the region in December of last year, but are regularly observed near Norway.

Foreign Affairs Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson stated that the Italian aircraft’s response was fully in line with NATO’s working regulations. Guðlaugur says the incident “is yet another example of the importance of airspace surveillance and air policing in Iceland.”

Offer Reykjavík Renters Seven-Year Fixed Contracts

Reykjavik from above

A major leasing company is now offering Reykjavík renters seven-year fixed-price contracts, RÚV reports. Almenna leigufélagið, which manages some 1,200 rental properties in Reykjavík and other parts of the country, is now offering renters a new type of contract with a fixed rental price, tied only to the consumer price index.

The new type of lease is being marketed under the trademark Alma. While contracts will be signed for one year at a time, the tenant will have the unilateral right to extend the agreement for another year. Tenants can extend the contract six times for a total rental period of seven years.

The high cost of housing, particularly for renters, has been key topic in ongoing wage negotiations between unions and the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA). Almenna leigufélagið recently pulled back a planned general rent increase following a meeting with VR Union.

Examine Strengthening Westfjords Electricity Transmission

Árneshreppur á Ströndum, Westfjords.

Residents of the remote Westfjords of Iceland have the most unreliable electricity transmission in the country. Interruptions in service occur regularly in the region, often causing damage to products and electrical equipment, and delays in production even once electricity has been restored. RÚV reports that Landsnet, which administers the transmission of electricity across Iceland, has just prepared a new report which lays out three ways to improve the region’s electricity transmission.

The report outlines three possibilities for improving electricity transmission in the region: a so-called “smart” power station in the South Westfjords; a circular transmission connection in the South Westfjords; and a circular transmission connection between the north and south sections of the region. The report also considers the potential impact of new power stations in Ísafjarðardjúp fjord and connections in the region, as well as the planned Hvalárvirkjun power station.

The report does not lay out the costs of the suggested improvements. Landsnet’s 2018-2027 infrastructure plan discusses connecting the planned Hvalárvirkjun plant to their network and strengthening of the South Westfjords network as “projects under consideration.” Neither are included in company’s implementation plan for the next three years.

Refugees Call Off Ongoing Protest

Refugees protest in Reykjavík

An ongoing refugee-organised protest in Austurvöllur, facing Iceland’s parliament, has been called off. A post on the group’s Facebook page states that staying in the square has affected the protesters’ health. “People are getting sick and we can’t allow our fight to dissipate due to ill health. Therefore, the demonstration will now move on from Austurvöllur,” the Facebook post states.

Asylum seekers and their supporters have been protesting for weeks, calling for an end to deportations, as well as due process on all asylum applications, and equal access to healthcare. Some protesters have been occupying the square day and night since last week, sleeping in tents.

Despite calling off the occupation of the square, protesters continue to call for talks between refugees and the government in the presence of the state mediator, in a similar fashion to wage negotiations. The group’s post can be read below.


Iceland and UK Reach Short Term Brexit Agreement

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Iceland and the UK reached a trade agreement yesterday which allows trade to continue unchanged between the countries if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, RÚV reports. Though the agreement is temporary, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says he is hopeful relations will continue to be good between the two countries. The contract is set to be signed next week.

“It’s been some time since we concluded the agreements if they [leave the EU] with a deal. What we had concluded if they went out without a deal was air travel and citizens’ rights. But merchandise trade was left and now that’s been completed and we will be signing it soon,” stated Guðlaugur Þór. “The next project is the future arrangement in relations between the UK and Iceland.”

The contract in question is a short-term solution meant to ensure the continuation of trade between the countries. Nevertheless, Guðlaugur Þór stated, “We have been very pleased with relations with the Brits and expect nothing but a good outcome for the future relations of the nations.” Agreements yet to be made between the UK and EU could affect Iceland-UK relations.