Halli Aims to “Ramp Up” Europe – Beginning in Paris

Entrepreneur Haraldur Ingi Þorleifsson plans to build wheelchair ramps across Europe – beginning in Paris. According to a Tweet yesterday, the effort will begin with a joint project between the City of Reykjavík and the City of Paris.

A joint project between Reykjavík and Paris

Entrepreneur Haraldur Ingi Þorleifsson, known as Halli, posted a picture on Twitter yesterday in which he was shown attending a meeting with Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Deputy Mayor of Paris Lamia El Araaje, and Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson. Beneath the picture, Halli wrote: “This may seem a bit wild but: We’re going to ramp up Europe!”

As suggested in his post, the effort to “ramp up Europe” – i.e. the building of wheelchair ramps to improve accessibility on the continent – will begin with a joint project between the City of Reykjavík and the City of Paris. As noted by RÚV, Halli and his collaborators have already built 500 ramps in Iceland through his Ramp Up Iceland project; the goal is to build 1,600 ramps in Iceland by spring 2026.

Read More: Staff writer Erik Pomremnke sat down with Halli earlier this year and discussed the selling of his company Ueno to Twitter; his Ramp Up Reykjavík project; among many other things.

Annual Inflation Rate Dips Below 9% for the First Time in 12 Months

currency iceland

The annual inflation rate currently sits at 8.9%, marking the first time that it falls below 9% in 12 months, RÚV reports. The decrease is to be attributed to the elimination of inflation measurements from June of last year – during a month when inflation rose from 7.6% to 8.8%.

Attributed to the elimination of July 2022 figures

The annual inflation rate (as measured by the annual change in the consumer price index) declined over the past month and was registered at 8.9% by Statistics Iceland in June, RÚV reports. The annual inflation rate in May was 9.5% compared to 9.9% in April.

Despite the inflation rate declining, the consumer price index (month-on-month) rose by 0.85% compared to the previous month. Notably, the cost of living in personal residences saw a 1.6% increase, while the price of hotel and restaurant services rose by 1.5%. (See table below from Statistics Iceland.)

As noted by RÚV, the current lower annual inflation rate, despite the rise in the consumer price index, can be attributed in part to the superannuation of inflation measurements from June of last year, when inflation rose from 7.6% to 8.8% – marking the most significant single increase in recent times.

In February, the annual inflation rate reached its peak at 10.2%. It has hovered above 9% since July of last year.

Whaling Suspension Inauspicious for Coalition Partnership

In a panel discussion on Vísir yesterday, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson stated that the temporary ban on whaling was inauspicious for the partnership between the coalition parties. A legal opinion commissioned by Fisheries Iceland has concluded that the decision to temporarily halt whaling goes against the law.

“A huge political decision”

Yesterday morning, the leaders of the three governing parties were invited to a panel discussion on Vísir. The leaders discussed the recently released report on the sale of Íslandsbanki; the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries’ decision to stop whaling; and immigration affairs.

Regarding the suspension of whaling, Bjarni Benediktsson stated that the decision had surprised him: “We’ve been clear in our conviction that the decision should be reconsidered.”

Bjarni emphasised that the issue did not simply revolve around economic or animal welfare issues; there was a tradition of whaling in Iceland and putting an end to it amounted to “a huge political decision.” Bjarni noted that the decision, as a political issue, should have gone before the parliament. “I think it’s a very strange turn of events that it happens like this a day before whaling was supposed to start.”

Bjarni also noted that, during the formation of the coalition government, the three parties had discussed whether an agreement could be reached on putting an end to whaling – but no such agreement was reached. “When whaling is stopped in this manner, I am alarmed; I am not satisfied.”

A difference of opinion

Bjarni further noted that the position of the Left-Green Movement was that whales should not be hunted; the Left-Green Movement believed that it was inhumane to kill whales so it was not exactly the methodology that was at issue. “I have a feeling it’s not just about the whaling methods; I have a feeling it’s about whaling itself.”

“How are you going to consider the welfare of a whale you’re going to kill?” Bjarni asked.

Finally, the Finance Minister did not rule out the possibility that the whaling issue would affect the partnership of the coalition parties. When the panel’s moderator, Heimir Már Pétursson, asked if the issue would affect the continuation of the government cooperation, Bjarni refused to say. “But I don’t think this is particularly auspicious for our partnership in governance.”

Stands with Svandís’s decision

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir responded to Bjarni’s comments by saying that she stood by Svandís’ decision. “First of all, these three parties have different views on whaling. Regardless, the minister received a formal opinion from a professional council on animal welfare. Having received this opinion, it would have been almost impossible for the minister not to act.”

Legal opinion finds the ban “unconstitutional”

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir, CEO of Fisheries Iceland (SFS), discussed a legal opinion that SFS recently commissioned from the law firm LEX.

Heiðrún stated that the legal opinion had found that Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s decision to temporarily stop whaling was unlawful. Heiðrún called for further justification from the Minister.

“We have said from the beginning that this unceremonious and unprecedented decision by the minister goes against the law, and now there is a legal opinion that substantiates our claim,” Heiðrún told RÚV.

“The legal opinion confirmed that the minister went against the freedom of employment and property rights provisions of the constitution; went against proportionality; went against the so-called code of governance; and, during the conduct of the council of specialists, the provisions of the administrative law were not followed.”

When asked if SFS intended to take the case further, Heiðrún replied that she hoped that the opinion would lead to the minister providing a more thorough explanation of her legal rationale. Over a week ago, SFS requested documents detailing the basis of the decision.

“We still haven’t received any word on these documents. As a result, I’m concerned that the preparation of this decision was poor and reprehensible, which is why it’s imperative for a well-reasoned legal opinion to be published in support of the minister’s far-reaching decision.”

Birna Einarsdóttir, CEO of Íslandsbanki, Resigns

Íslandsbanki bank

In a press release sent to the media last night, Birna Einarsdóttir announced her decision to step down as the CEO of Íslandsbanki. Birna’s resignation comes on the heels of Íslandsbanki agreeing to pay a fine of ISK 1.2 billion [$8.8 million, €8.1 million] due to “serious and systematic violations” during the sale of the state’s 22.5% stake in the bank in March last year, RÚV reports.

Shouldering responsibility

In a press release sent to the media at 4 AM tonight, Birna Einarsdóttir, CEO of Íslandsbanki, announced her decision to step down. The decision was made with “the bank’s interests in mind” and in order “for peace to be attained following Íslandsbanki’s agreement with the Financial Supervisory Authority of the Central Bank (FME).”

The resignation, Birna states, is her way of shouldering responsibility for her role in the affair. “The discussion has been unsparing and various politicians have frequently called for my resignation; I wish them well in their work,” Birna stated.

While reluctant to leave Íslandsbanki, she highlighted her long-standing commitment to the bank throughout her career, emphasising that the settlement with the Financial Supervisory Authority only pertains to a single project and the rest of her tenure has been successful.

“Under my management, the bank’s equity has increased by almost ISK 150 billion [$1.1 billion, €1.1 billion], and more than 110 billion [$810 million, €740 million] have been paid in dividends to shareholders,” Birna stated.

In her concluding remarks, Birna expressed a bittersweet farewell to the bank. She extended well wishes to her colleagues and expressed her hope that her decision to step aside would foster a sense of peace within the company and among the individuals she holds dear.

Jón Guðni Ómarsson will succeed Birna as the CEO of Íslandsbanki.

Birna’s full statement was posted on Vísir this morning.