Bjarni Returns as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson

Bjarni Benediktsson, current minister of foreign affairs and leader of the centre-right Independence Party, will become prime minister in the reshuffled coalition government following the departure of Katrín Jakobsdóttir from the office, RÚV reports.

Katrín announced last week that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to campaign for the office of president, with presidential elections scheduled for June 1. This threw the future of her party’s coalition with the Independence Party and the centrist Progressive Party into uncertainty. A parliamentary election is scheduled for September next year, but the opposition has called for a snap election in light of these developments.

Bjarni’s return following privatisation scandal

At a press conference in Harpa concert and conference hall today, Bjarni announced that he would become prime minister. Bjarni was previously prime minister during a short-lived coalition in 2017 and finance minister for most of the period from 2013 to 2023. He resigned as finance minister in October of last year after the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that his role in the privatisation process of Íslandsbanki bank, which had been nationalised after the 2008 banking collapse, had not confirmed to guidelines.

He became minister for foreign affairs instead, with fellow party member Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir becoming finance minister in his stead. Þórdís will now move back to the ministry for foreign affairs, where she served previously.

Embattled Svandís switches ministries

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, leader of the Progressive Party, will now become finance minister. Embattled Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who was set to face a motion of no confidence in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, this week, will become minister of infrastructure. In January, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that she had not acted in accordance with law when she temporarily banned whale hunting last summer.

Her fellow Left-Green Movement MP, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, will take her place in the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries.

The changes will be formalised at a meeting of the cabinet with President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson at 7 PM tonight.

Women Doctors Uncover Gender Pay Gap at Children’s Hospital

Landspítali national hospital

Three paediatricians at Landspítali, The National University Hospital of Iceland, uncovered a gender pay gap at the children’s wing, Vísir reports. The women’s pay has since been adjusted accordingly and they’ve been given back pay to correct the injustice.

The three paediatricians, all women, started investigating salaries in the wake of the Women’s Strike last October. They utilised a clause in legislation that allowed them to access the salaries of all specialist doctors at the children’s and women’s wing and discovered that the men received higher pay, irrespective of qualifications.

Women’s experience not valued

According to collective bargaining agreements, doctor pay is mostly determined by education and the length of their careers. In addition, administrators can make a subjective choice on additional pay, taking into account factors such as subspecialties, administrative experience, and research and teaching history. A memo on how these factors should be evaluated was published in 2016, but was not used when the women were hired that same year.

A small gap remains

The women published an article in The Icelandic Medical Journal exposing the pay gap after appealing to a public committee on equality. Hospital administrators corrected their pay accordingly. Furthermore, the hospital looked into the wage setting of all specialist doctors at the hospital and found a 1.4% bias towards men. The hospital has had an equal pay certification since 2020 and a goal of keeping the gender pay gap under 2.5% at any time.

“I will never again believe that wage setting is fair,” said one of the doctors, Helga Elídóttir. “I’ll need to look for myself.”

Iceland Qualifies for Women’s Handball Euro

Stavanger, Norway

With a victory over the Faroe Islands Sunday, Iceland women’s national handball team has qualified for the 2024 European Women’s Handball Championship.

Iceland beat the Faroe Islands 24-20 with a big performance from Elín Klara Þorkelsdóttir, who scored 10 goals, RÚV reports. Goalkeeper Elín Jóna Þorsteinsdóttir blocked 16 shots, including three penalty shots.

Dominant performance

The Faroese team led for part of the first half, but Iceland took over the game, leading by four goals at half-time. Iceland’s defence was stellar, limiting Faroe Islands to 8 goals in the first half. Iceland held the lead for the entire second half.

At the end of the game, which took place at Ásvellir stadium in Hafnarfjörður, there was much celebration, as the Faroe Islands also secured qualification despite the loss.

Back in the big tournaments

The tournament will take place in Austria, Hungary and Switzerland in November and December this year and will feature 24 teams. Norway are the two time defending champions.

Iceland has appeared in the tournament twice before, in 2010 and 2012. The women’s national handball team also qualified for the World Championship last year, where the team beat Congo to finish in 25th place.

Katrín Leads in Presidential Poll

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who resigned as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement this weekend to run for president of Iceland, leads the race according to a new survey by pollster Maskína.

32.9% said they would vote for Katrín in the presidential election scheduled for June 1, Mbl.is reports. Katrín announced her campaign last week after months of speculation, throwing the future of the coalition government she headed into question. Discussions are ongoing within her party and coalition partners the Independence Party and the Progressive Party about the shape of a new cabinet to serve until next year’s parliamentary elections. Katrín remains as prime minister until a new coalition is formed.

Baldur close on Katrín’s heels

26.7% said they would vote for Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science. Jón Gnarr, comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík, had 19.6% support in the poll. 7.9% said they would vote for Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team. Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director general of the National Energy Authority, had 5.7% support, while other candidates polled below 5%.

The current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, announced on January 1 that he would not be seeking reelection after two terms in office. The role of president is a largely ceremonial one, although it comes with limited political powers.

Deep North Episode 69: Melting Hearts

Ice Guys boyband

Jón Jónsson had the idea for Ice Guys in early 2023.

It all began as a kind of a joke.

He was, after all, 38 years old and probably a bit too long in the tooth to start a boy band.

But, despite his advanced age – in boy-band years, that is – he still had his boyish good looks and those teeth, no matter how long, would become the focal point of a Colgate Christmas campaign later that year.

Besides, Jón had a slew of popular singles to his name and years of experience in the Icelandic music business.

So why not?

Read the article here.

Is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland open after the eruption?

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

This information is now outdated. Stay apprised of the situation here.

Update: April 17. The Blue Lagoon temporarily closed its doors on April 16 due to gas pollution but will reopen on April 17 at 2:00 pm.

Due to its close proximity to the eruption site, the Blue Lagoon had to evacuate its guests and temporarily close down all facilities. Even though the lagoon is open, please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility before planning your visit.

The Sundhnúkagígar eruption is the fourth eruption since December 2023 and is, at the time of writing, still active.

Land uplift close to the lagoon

After intense seismic activity in the early morning of February 8, a volcanic eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula in the Sýlingarfell mountain area. Shortly after, the Blue Lagoon closed and evacuated all of its operational units. The spa is in Zone 1 of the hazard map for volcanic eruption by the Icelandic Met Office. Currently, land uplift continues to increase under Svartsengi. The area is in close proximity to the Blue Lagoon. Experts are predicting another eruption to occur within the next few weeks, similar to the last three months.

Please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility and local news outlets before planning your visit. The situation can change very fast.

Useful resources

Apart from news updates that we provide, below are some links you may find useful as you stay apprised of the situation or your visit to Iceland nears:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

How to visit the Blue Lagoon

If you are contemplating a visit to the Blue Lagoon, there are several way to do this. A premium admission pass with bus transfer (from Reykjavík or Keflavík airport) is a popular option. Alternatively, you could combine a trip to the Blue Lagoon with a Golden Circle tour or if you are doing a self-drive, you can book a basic admission ticket.

The Blue Lagoon is located about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Keflavik International Airport and about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Reykjavik. Hence, you can reach the Blue Lagoon by car, taxi, or shuttle bus. Bear in mind that under normal circumstances this is a very popular destination, so booking in advance is recommended to secure a spot in the lagoon.

By booking travel services through Iceland Review, you are supporting independent coverage and curation of travel in Iceland. See more information on tours and trips to lagoons and hot springs in Iceland or visit our travel section for a comprehensive resource with practical information on travel in Iceland.