In Focus: Hate Speech in Iceland

hate speech iceland

When an offensive effigy of Icelandic journalist, athlete, and influencer Edda Falak surfaced at a recent parade in the Westman Islands, it reignited a conversation about misogyny and racism in Iceland. Taking place against the background of a public discourse that seems to be deteriorating, the incident was only one of a series of high-profile […]

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Closure of Reykjanesbraut Cost Icelandair ISK 1 Billion

Icelandair

The CEO of Icelandair has stated that the storm in December, and the subsequent closure of Reykjanesbraut, cost the company approximately ISK 1 billion ($7 million / €6.4 million). Thousands were left stranded at Keflavík Airport due to the closure.

Best fourth-quarter performance since 2015

Yesterday, Icelandair published its consolidated financial report for 2022. The report states that the company’s full-year EBIT amounted to ISK 2.7 billion ($19 million / €17.4 million), which is an improvement by ISK 19 billion ($136 / €124 million), and that strong revenue generation resulted in the best fourth quarter performance since 2015. “In 2022, we brought around 740 thousand tourists to Iceland and recruited around 1,000 employees,” the report reads.

The report also notes that weather disruptions in December negatively affected results for the fourth quarter of 2022: “It was negatively affected by significant disruptions in the flight schedule caused by weather conditions in Iceland in December, in the midst of the pre-Christmas travel period. The negative effect on EBIT is estimated around $7 million (ISK 1 billion / €6.4 million) in lost revenue cost of leasing extra aircraft, and increased passenger-related costs. [The] majority of the negative effect is related to the closure of the main road between the capital area and KEF airport while the airport itself was operational,” Bogi Nils Bogason, CEO of Icelandair, was quoted as saying.

Bogi concluded by saying that following “the crisis,” a thorough review had been performed by the Ministry of Infrastructure in order to prevent similar events in the future.

Thorough review by the Ministry of Infrastructure

As noted by RÚV, Reykjanesbraut was closed on December 19 and 20 of last year. Thousands of tourists were left stranded at Keflavík Airport during the storm.

The working group of the Minister of Infrastructure submitted a report on the matter in late January, which states, among other things, that it would not have been possible to completely prevent the closure of the Reykjanesbraut, considering the weather conditions during the period in question, and the statutory roles of the Icelandic Road Administration and the police in ensuring the safety of drivers.

Ministry Dismisses Efling’s Complaint Against State Mediator

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir Efling

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has dismissed Efling’s administrative complaint against the State Mediator’s mediating proposal, RÚV reports. The Ministry believes that the matter is “not an administrative decision that may be appealed to a higher authority.” In what is expected to be a big day, both the Labour Court and the District Court of Reykjavík will be hearing cases related to the ongoing dispute between Efling, the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, and the state mediator today.

Lack of consultation, questions about competency

In an announcement on its website at the end of January, Efling stated that it had filed an administrative complaint against the state mediator’s mediating proposal to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. The union demanded that the mediating proposal be repealed as there was a lack of consultation, validity, proportionality, and equality. Efling added that the state mediator was incompetent and could not be considered impartial in the dispute.

On the union’s website yesterday, Efling announced that it had further submitted a request for annulment to the Reykjavík District Court. The reason: a lack of reaction from Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, to Efling’s administrative complaint.

This morning, however, the ministry announced that it had decided to dismiss Efling’s complaint. In the opinion of the Ministry, the mediating proposal, according to Article 27 of the Act on Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes, is part of the work of the state mediator and part of the procedure that aims to resolve a labor dispute between the parties. In contrast, paragraph 2 of Article 1 of administrative law states that the law applies when the government, including administrative committees, make decisions about “people’s rights or obligations.”

“Decisions on procedure and decisions that have a general legal effect are, therefore, not considered decisions on the rights or obligations of people in this regard,” the verdict reads.

A “big day” in the labour dispute

As noted by Vísir, today marks a “big day” in the dispute between Efling and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), on the one hand, and in the dispute between Efling and the state mediator, on the other. Hearings will take place today in the Reykjavík District Court in the dispute between Efling and the state mediator (the mediator has requested Efling’s electoral roll in order to put the mediating proposal to a vote among Efling members).

The Labour Court will also begin hearings in the dispute between Efling and SA this afternoon; SA has requested that the court rule whether or not Efling union members are allowed to go through with their planned strikes on Tuesday – while the state mediator’s proposal remains on the table.

Minister Unauthorised to Sell Surveillance Aircraft, MP Says

TF-SIF

There is no authorisation in the state budget for the sale of TF-SIF, the Coast Guard’s surveillance aircraft, the Chair of the Budget Committee told RÚV yesterday. The Minister of Justice has stated that his decision to discontinue the operations of TF-SIF was made in consultation with the Coast Guard.

No discussion taken place

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, MP for the Left-Greens and Chair of the Budget Committee, stated that Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson did not have the authorisation for the sale of TF-SIF, the Coast Guard’s only surveillance aircraft. According to Bjarkey, the budget authorises the purchase, or lease, of three rescue helicopters and the sale of an older helicopter, TF-LÍF. Bjarkey added that she was unhappy with the decision and the way that the Minister had gone about things, not least in light of the fact that no discussion had taken place within the Budget Committee.

“Authorisation is required, according to the sixth article of the law, in order to be allowed to sell these machines, and we may have reacted in a different way if we assumed that they were being sold – in discussions within the budget committee and discussions within Parliament – so I am not at all happy that some kind of authorisation is being requested afterwards, when the minister should do it beforehand,” Bjarkey remarked.

When asked if a minister could set a plan in motion without the required authorisation, as in this case, Bjarkey stated that such a thing was possible: “but of course, those plans may also collapse if the authorisation is not obtained; that’s the nature of these things.”

Bjarkey planned to convene the Budget Committee to discuss the matter yesterday and that she would request the presence of the Minister of Justice and the Coast Guard.

Consulted with the Coast Guard

Speaking to RÚV, the Minister of Justice maintained that the decision to discontinue the operations of TF-SIF was made in consultation with the Coast Guard. “We received a letter on December 18, in which various options to respond to the operational deficit were reviewed. It was believed that this would be the least damaging way forward, in terms of security considerations and other aspects of the Coast Guard’ operation, and would serve to fill the budgetary gap,” Jón Gunnarsson observed.

Preparations have begun to examine possible replacements for TF-SIF in the event of the sale. Jón stated that authorisation from Parliament to sell the plane has yet to be sought. “In other words, the intention was to announce that preparations would be started within the Coast Guard to sell the aircraft. We must then receive the authorisation from Parliament in order to carry out that sale. Meanwhile, we plan to have worked on future solutions in this regard, where we do not compromise the underlying security considerations,” Jón remarked. He added that it must be considered food for thought that the plane had never been recalled from missions in the southern seas over the recent years.

Important at the outer limits of Iceland’s jurisdiction

Kristín Jónsdóttir, geologist and Head of the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s Service and Research Department, told RÚV that the proposed sale was a big disappointment. “Because we’re talking about an aircraft that can help us in big moments. We are talking about critical events, such as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The aircraft penetrates plumes of smoke and is capable of observing phenomena that can’t be detected with the naked eye. There will be volcanic eruptions in the future where we need this aircraft.”

The State Auditor’s report from last year also noted that the aircraft was particularly important at the outer limits of Iceland’s jurisdiction, RÚV reports. In such areas, searching for, and rescuing people from danger was only possible by way of planes or ships. The report also made mention of the plane’s unique features, that it is equipped with advanced radars and a thermal camera. Lifeboats can also be launched from TF-SIFT for those in distress.

Tempers run hot in Parliament

Yesterday morning, temperatures ran high among members of Parliament, RÚV notes, who expressed their displeasure with the Minister of Justice’s decision. The MPs unceremoniously broached the issue during discussions about the Speaker’s meeting management and complained that the decision had not been discussed much earlier.

“It’s unacceptable that the government’s fiscal policy leads to basic infrastructure, essential safety equipment, being sold so that other operations can be maintained,” Helga Vala Helgadóttir, MP for the Social Democratic Alliance, observed.

Björn Leví Gunnarsson, MP for the Pirates, was likewise dissatisfied with the minister’s actions. “Was any MP present aware, when voting for the budget bill occurrred, that it would have these consequences? We don’t know what we’re agreeing to when we press the button because it’s not explicit.”

“It’s been observed how important the aircraft is, both for the safety of the citizens and for the Coast Guard’s security role: for search and rescue,” Sigmar Guðmundsson, MP for the Liberal Reform Party, commented. “It is quite unbelievable that the ruling parties did not discuss the matter with us.”

Deep North Episode 11: One Night in Gufunes

iceland hip hip birnir

It is honesty, full-throated and vulnerable, which elevates Birnir’s music above that of other contemporary rappers in Iceland. That and some excellent production. Bushido, Birnir’s latest work, is a culmination of certain developments in contemporary hip-hop in Iceland; one is inclined to agree. To put one’s finger on the appeal of the album requires, perhaps, some basic theorising on the phenomenon of music – and the power it exercises over a person’s emotions.

In episode 11 of Deep North, we talk about hip-hop, family, and what makes Birnir tick. Read the full story here.