Environment, Equality, and Reasoned Debate on Prime Minister’s Agenda

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir delivered her policy speech in Parliament on Wednesday, in which she covered topics ranging from the climate crisis and populism to living standards and the promotion of non-discrimination. Discussions on the Prime Minister’s policy then continued late into the evening.

Mankind is responsible for the situation

The Prime Minister said the climate threat was our biggest challenge and that mankind is largely responsible for the current deteriorating environmental situation. The task before us is of reducing the rate of climate change; minimising the damage and securing the future of the entire biota on this planet.

Prime Minister Katrín stated that she would be proud to lead a government that provides the first funded action plan to combat climate change; economic incentives will be used to achieve climate goals. Then the climate goals will be the main goal of a new government food policy that will be presented this winter.

 “I welcome the increased awareness among the public of the importance of combining all our efforts. But we cannot expect the public to take on the formidable challenge without support from the public sector. The government, the state and municipalities, employers and workers’ organisations must combine their energies. A concerted effort is a prerequisite for real success. “

Outrage instead of a matter-of-fact discussion

The Prime Minister mentioned that MPs had been absurdly accused of treason in discussions on the proposed energy deal and some even called murderers for supporting the law to keep abortion legal.

“The rage, unfortunately, gets a lot of attention in the news and sadly sometimes at the expense of reasoned debate. In many parts of Europe popular movements are growing, undermining human rights and unfairly blaming immigrants. Fairness gives way to excitement and extremes. Then the way will become even easier for those inexperienced to come to power and encourage public contempt for politics, parties, democracy and parliament.”

However, the Prime Minister maintained firm faith in the parliamentary debate. She also views democratic political movements as one of the basic principles of a democracy that protects human rights, the rights of those who are otherwise disenfranchised and of democratic institutions as well. She noted that it was a positive sign how much opportunity there was for political participation in Iceland.

“But we need to be vigilant in adapting to the evolving nature of politics and, not least, against attempts to gain power and influence through anonymous misleading propaganda if we are to continue to ensure transparency that is the basis of democracy.”

Need for constitutional change

The recent uproarious debate on energy resource management shows how much the need “is for Parliament to make amendments to the Constitution, not least with provisions on national ownership of resources and environmental considerations for resource utilization,” she said.

“It must be a priority to ensure that all the quality that nature has given us is commonly owned – whether it is the water, geothermal power, the wind, the sea or whatever.”

She said work on such constitutional provisions should be completed later this year. Furthermore, proposals for a clearer legal framework regarding transactions for land utilization and ownership, including the status of national and water rights, would be a priority.

The need to increase social stability

Agreements had successfully been reached on the general labour market this spring. The Prime Minister said the government’s actions in drawing up wage agreements have been aimed at increasing social stability.

The proposed three-level tax system sought to avoid burdening the lowest income groups. Maternity leave and increase child benefit would remain unchanged. Housing policy should also be made to help the neediest. In addition, the government is increasing public investment to meet the slack in the economy. “The government will live up to the expectations of the least endowed,” the Prime Minister said.

Face up to the fourth industrial revolution

Proposals for measures to address the fourth industrial revolution and its impact on the Icelandic labour market will be submitted this winter, she said. New jobs will be created, some will change, others will disappear. Then you need to increase investment in innovation and increase people’s opportunities to apply for new education and move into new jobs.

The challenge is to increase value creation in all sectors while at the same time ensuring that the benefits of technological change are fairly distributed.

Actions on human rights are pending

Prime Minister Katrín said that further measures aimed at improving policy on human rights are now pending. A gender equality action plan will be presented in this parliamentary session. The Judiciary Committee is also working on proposals for comprehensive improvements in cases of survivors of sexual offences. An international conference on the MeToo movement will be held in Iceland next week.

Iceland, the best in the world

“Iceland is the best in the world in a number of issues, but we can get even better, and that we should all agree on. Our 75-year-old Republic continues to develop and grow in every way. That is why I am proud to belong to this vibrant community as we deal with various issues, standing together as one nation. Disagreement is nothing to fear but presents a common challenge to all of us who share the desire to live here in this country. Our fundamental duty is with our community and it is the community that makes us one nation. ”  The Prime Minister concluded.

Four Teenagers Arrested for Deprivation of Liberty and Assault

Four men under the age of twenty have been arrested on suspicion of deprivation of liberty and assault yesterday, RÚV reports. The teenagers brought a man to the Heiðmörk conservation area on Wednesday afternoon, just outside the city limits, beat him with a bat and attacked him with pepper spray. Afterwards, he was forced to wade into the cold water of Elliðavatn lake. The assault victim was taken by ambulance to the emergency ward for care, as his body temperature was low when responders arrived at the scene.

The teenagers were not put into custody. The police will not disclose whether the perpetrators knew the victim but are looking into if the case is connected to a drug-related settlement.

The Metropolitan Police received two notifications on Wednesday from people claiming to have been abducted and threatened. The other case involved a couple entering a car in Borgartún armed with a knife, forcing the driver to come with them so that they could steal his money and drugs. The police have a likely suspect and are currently searching for him.

City Centre Parking Zones and Hours Extended, Rates Increased

Proposed extension of parking zone 1

The Reykjavík Planning and Transport Committee has approved a proposal to extend parking fee hours for popular locations in the city centre and will start charging parking fees on Sundays. In addition, parking rates will go up in all tariff zones.

Zone 1 will be extended as the map above shows. The extended parking fee hours for zone will be 9 AM-8 PM on weekdays and 10 AM-8 PM Saturdays. On Sundays, parking fees will be collected from 10 AM-4 PM. Both of these changes exclude Borgartún.

Parking fee rates for zone 1 will go from 340 ISK (EUR 2.47 – USD 2.74) per hour to 400 ISK (EUR 2.91 – USD 3.23) per hour. Zones 2 and 4 will change from 190 ISK (Eur 1.38 – USD 1.53) per hour to 200 ISK (EUR 1.45 – USD 1.61) and zone 3 will go from charging  190 ISK (Eur 1.38 – USD 1.53) per hour for the first two hours and 55 ISK (EUR 0.40 – USD 0.44) per hour after that to simply charging 100 ISK (EUR 0.73 – USD 0.81) per hour.

The People’s Party’s Observer in the Planning and Transport Committee entered in the official minutes that “the proposals were focused on making it harder for car users to drive to the city centre. The result will be immediate, more and more Icelanders, suburban residents, will stop visiting the city centre.”

The Pirate Party, Social Democratic Alliance, and the Reform Party’s counter-entry stated that “the extension of parking fee zones and hours was in accordance with the city’s policy on parking issues. Its intended goals were better traffic control, more economic use of parking, and increased revenue. A reasonable fee collection encourages us of divers modes of transport and reduces use of beautiful city space being used as long-term storage for cars.”

Pence Visit Three Times as Expensive as Merkel and Nordic Leaders

US Vice President Mike Pence.

The Metropolitan Police’s expense over US Vice President Mike Pence’s seven-hour visit to Iceland last week was triple the amount spent during German Chancellor Angela Merkel and all the Nordic Prime Ministers’ two-day visit in August, according to the Police’s answer to RÚV’s inquiry.

Extensive preparations were made during Pece’s official visit, with street closures and a multitude of police officers gathered at Höfði House, where Pence met with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, and Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson. Snipers were also visible atop surrounding buildings.

The Metropolitan Police expense ran just over 14 million ISK (EUR 102,456 – USD113,783). This is not including the cost of police officers from South- and North Iceland, as well as travel and accommodation costs.

A few days earlier, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Iceland along with the prime ministers of all the Nordic countries, the Lawman of the Faroe Islands, the Premier of Greenland, and the Governor of the Åland Islands. They spent two days in the country. Merkel attracted attention when she took a stroll through the city centre and went shopping. According to the Metropolitan Police, their expenses over the Nordic and German leaders amounted to 5.5 million ISK (EUR 39,965 – USD 44,383) or just over one-third of the Pence visit.