500 Travellers Trapped in Seyðisfjörður for Two Days

Seyðisfjörður

Some 500 passengers are stuck in Seyðisfjörður for the second day in a row. RÚV reports.

Seyðisfjörður is a small fishing village in Iceland’s East Fjords, notable as a tourist destination for both its vibrant art and cultural life and also its ferry connection. Nestled at the bottom of a steep fjord, Seyðisfjörður is only accessible over land via Fjarðarheiði, a mountain pass.

Conditions in the last days have left Fjarðarheiði impassable, meaning that the travellers are stuck in place for some time.

500 passengers

The travellers arrived in Seyðisfjörður yesterday, March 21. Among the passengers of the ferry are some Faroese and a group of around 50 German travellers. Most travellers are expected to take the ferry back in the morning, a sure disappointment.

Agnar Sverrisson, regional manager of Smyril Line in Seyðisfjörður, stated to RÚV:  “Up on the heath, you have to drive about 10 km [6 mi] at an altitude of over 600 meters [1970 ft]. Many travellers are reluctant to make the journey in difficult conditions. It stops us from doing business for much of the winter.”

Other operations in Seyðisfjörður are being called on to help out as well, although reports indicate that the herring processing facility, which houses an important electric generator, has begun to run low on fuel. According to RÚV, generator fuel should last through the night, but if it comes to it, they may have to burn ship diesel in the generator to keep the lights on.

A fuel truck will be sent over the mountain pass as soon as conditions allow.

Making the most of it

Despite the disappointing nature of the trip, the travellers seem to be making the most of it.

Marie Kruger, a tourist guide, stated to RÚV: “There are people there who have been to Iceland before, and these people may think it’s a bit of an adventure and a bit exciting to experience something like this. But then, of course, there are the others who were really looking forward to seeing the East, and they are naturally disappointed. But people understand the situation and see what is going on.”

The unfortunate closure has also thrown new light on a possible tunnel to Seyðisfjörður, which has been discussed before.

According to Agnar, “It’s a matter of life and death for Seyðisfjörður to get a tunnel. And then for the community in East Iceland as a whole to continue to be open. To connect Austurland together so that this can be considered a single business and tourism area.”

 

 

Proposal to Amend Surveillance Law Causes Tension Between Pirates and Socialists

City councillor Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir in City Hall by the Reykjavík city Pond

A proposal to change surveillance laws has been the occasion for some skirmishes between the Pirate and Socialist parties in City Hall. Vísir reports.

Council of Europe to be held in Reykjavík

Reykjavík City Council approved an agreement earlier this March between the City of Reykjavík, capital area police, and emergency services to increase surveillance cameras in downtown Reykjavík. The decision came in anticipation of the upcoming Council of Europe, to be held in Reykjavík May 16-17.

With some 46 nations party to the Council of Europe, Reykjavík will be hosting a number of delegates this May to discuss the War in Ukraine, human rights, and the security situation in Europe. Due to the number of delegates expected, the decision was made to increase security measures, especially surveillance cameras.

“Betraying their stance” on surveillance

Yesterday, March 21, an amendment to the recent surveillance bill was submitted to Reykjavík City Council by the Socialist Party, which would make the review of surveillance measures in Reykjavík an annual process. As it currently stands, surveillance measures in Reykjavík are only up for review every five years.

The Socialist Party has been the only opposition to this legislation, and now they are accusing the Pirate party of abandoning its stance on surveillance.

Pirates voted against the proposal

Magnús Davið Norðdahl, representative for the Pirate Party, presided over the submission of the amendment. Two other Pirate Party members voted against the proposal.

Now, representatives from the Socialist Party and saying that the Pirates have made a mistake in not approving the proposal.

Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir stated to Vísir: “It really surprises me. Having heard their policy, they have spoken out against this kind of surveillance before, so I find this very peculiar.”

Sanna also stated that further discussion will be needed to ensure that surveillance cameras do not violate personal privacy: “Having looked into the matter, there are a lot of them [cameras]. It’s surprising how many there are. I believe that we should instead get to the root of the problem in order to ensure safety in the city, that we then need to consider all kinds of factors that promote or actually reduce safety in the urban environment rather than having surveillance cameras. Surveillance is not going to ensure that we live in a safe society or feel that we live in a safe community.”

 

 

500 Children on Waitlist for Preschool in Reykjavík

preschool iceland

Árelía Eydís Guðmundsdóttir, director of the Council for Education and Recreation for Reykjavík City, has stated in a recent interview with RÚV that this will be a “difficult year.”

Last week, registration for preschool in Reykjavík opened for next year. Of the applicants, some 1,500 children will be placed, but more than 500 remain on the waitlist.

In Focus: The Preschool System

On the news programme Kastljós, Árelía ensured Reykjavík parents that children born in February 2022 and before would be guaranteed spaces at a preschool.

In the last election cycle for Reykjavík City Council, campaign promises were made that would guarantee children a spot in preschool from the age of 12 months. This has not yet been the case, with staffing shortages and long wait lists being a problem last year as well.

Preschool Staffing Shortage Leaves 90 Positions Unfilled

Árelía did not say exactly how many children would be without placements this year, but expressed her hopes to “empty the waitlist” as much as possible.

Other Reykjavík City Councillors have also called for increased funding to the preschool system, such as Independence Party representative Ragnhildur Alda Vilhjálmsdóttir.

For the past 15 years, around 1,000 children throughout Iceland have been without preschool or daycare every year.

Exacerbating the situation has been a recent decrease in the number of preschool workers, with many positions left unfilled.

On Kastljós, Árelía stated: “This will be a difficult year. There is no magic solution, but we are working to improve the situation.”

 

Central Bank Raises Interest Rate 1%, Now at 7.5%

central bank of iceland

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Iceland has raised interest rates a further 1%. This is the twelfth rate hike in a row, and key interest rates, that is, the interest rate on seven-day term deposits, now sits at 7.5%.

The interest rate in Iceland has not been higher since 2010, when the Icelandic economy was still recovering from the banking collapse.

Inflation Rate Now 10%, Up 1.39% from January

In a statement released by the Central Bank of Iceland, the rate hikes are described as a response to continuing inflationary pressures. Inflation in Iceland currently sits at 10.2%, far above the Central Bank’s goal. Despite a cooling housing market, the Central Bank still forecasts future increases in the inflation rate.

For comparison, headline inflation rates in Europe currently average around 8.5%. Key European Central Bank interest rates were raised to 3.5% in response to recent upsets in international banking, including the UBS takeover of Credit Suisse.

The Central Bank has also pointed to a tight labour market in Iceland, with tense negotiations between labour unions and employers, and relatively high numbers of job openings, driving up wages.

interest rates in iceland
Central Bank of Iceland: Interest Rate Since Jan 2019

In their statement on the latest rate hike, the Central Bank said: “Under these circumstances, it is important to prevent a wage-price spiral, particularly in view of the strong demand pressures in the economy and the upcoming wage negotiations. The MPC will apply its policy instruments so as to ensure a better balanced economy and bring inflation back to target.”

Interest rates in Iceland now stand as follows:

Overnight loans 9.25%
Seven-day collateralised loans 8.25%
Seven-day term deposits 7.50%
Current accounts 7.25%

Notably, predictions last week estimated the latest rate hike would only account for .75%.