Yellow Weather Warning For Nearly Entire Nation Tomorrow

weather iceland

The Meteorological Office has announced a yellow alert for nearly the entire nation, beginning early tomorrow morning, February 2. Conditions are expected to last into the evening.

The only area exempt from tomorrow’s warnings is the greater Reykjavík area.

Eastern and southeastern winds can be expected to range between 15 to 23 m/s [33 to 51 mph] for much of the nation. Snow and sleet are expected, with temperatures hovering around the freezing point.

Especially harsh winds are expected on the Kjalarnes peninsula and near Eyjafjalljökull, with forecasts of winds up to 35 m/s [78 mph].

Travellers and residents alike are advised against unnecessary travel, especially on mountain roads which may be subject to closures.

The warnings are also noteworthy as they follow a recent announcement by the Meteorological Office that a record number of extreme weather warnings were issued in the past year.

meteorological office iceland
From Veðurstofa Íslands. Annual numbers of yellow, orange, and red weather alerts.

For 2022, a total of 456 weather alerts were issued. While 2020 had more total weather alerts, 2022 represents a new record for extreme weather, with 74 orange warnings and 10 red warnings.

The most warnings were given for South and Southeast Iceland.

 

Reshuffling of Environmental Agencies Merges Ten into Three

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Plans to reorganize ten agencies in environment, energy, and climate into three were announced today by the government.

The plans were first discussed yesterday at a meeting where Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson. He highlighted the need to have fewer, stronger agencies to streamline regulations, while also highlighting the benefits of institutional knowledge that will allow employees to work in and move between what were previously different agencies.

Under the new organization, environmental regulations in Iceland will be split between the Nature Conservation and Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Environmental Sciences, and the Climate Agency.

environment iceland
Stjórnarráð Íslands

Under the new schema, the Nature Conservation and Heritage Foundation would combine Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, and the Nature Conservation Department of the Environmental Agency. The new Institute for Environmental Sciences will bring together the Meteorological Office, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the Icelandic Land Survey, Iceland GeoSurvey, and the Natural Research Centre at Mývatn. The new Climate Agency will then comprise of the National Energy Authority and all departments of the Environmental Agency outside of Nature Conservation.

The new structure will hopefully bring greater flexibility to energy and environmental policy in Iceland, with projects now more easily transferred between formerly separate agencies.

While final details of the new structure have not yet been decided, minister Guðlaugur also announced that they will prioritize job creation in rural areas, and involve the municipalities as much as possible in the decision-making process.

In the announcement, the minister stated: “the main goal is to strengthen the institutions of the ministry to deal with the enormous challenges that await us as a society, where climate issues are at the top of the list. With the new institutional structure, the aim is to increase efficiency and reduce waste resulting from redundancy and lack of cooperation. There is also great scope for increasing the number of jobs in rural areas, and creating more desirable workplaces.”

The reorganization will affect approximately 600 employees in various agencies, some 61% of which are in the capital region.

 

 

 

Association of Icelandic Journalists Resigns from the International Federation of Journalists

Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir - Blaðamannafélag Íslands

In a statement on their website today, the Association of Icelandic Journalists announced that they would be leaving the International Federation of Journalists.

Alongside the Association of Icelandic Journalists (Blaðamannafélag Íslands, or BÍ) were its sister organisations in Norway, Denmark, and Finland. The organisations have repeatedly called for reforms to practices within the organisation.

BÍ Chairperson Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir stated: “The reason for the termination is that IFJ has proved unable to make improvements in its operations in accordance with criticism from the Nordic Journalists’ Association and other associations, which has been ongoing for more than ten years. We are dissatisfied with the organisation of elections and the lack of transparency in decision-making.”

Central to the recent decision was IFJ’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. In BÍ’s statement, they cite how regional journalistic associations have been established in occupied areas of Ukraine, and how these associations have been admitted to IFJ and thereby recognised as legitimate. BÍ cites similar instances in contested areas of Georgia as well. Similarly, the choice to host the latest IFJ general assembly in Oman, a nation with strict press censorship, has called into question the association’s commitment to a free press.

Sigríður continued: “This is not an easy decision, but we cannot be a member of an international journalistic organisation whose working practices, culture, and decision-making do not meet our demands for transparency and democratic process.”

As BÍ’s bylaws require it to be a member to IFJ, the vote needed to be approved by a general meeting. Now, the resignation begins a six-month waiting period. BÍ is expected to leave IFJ by this July.

In their statement, BÍ state that they will continue their membership in and cooperation with EFJ, the European Federation of Journalists.

 

A Sticky Decision: Icelandic Competition Authority Debates Whether Guacamole a Sauce

Specialists at the Icelandic Competition Authority have been in debates over the nature of several popular condiments, and whether they should be considered “sauces,” following the planned merger of two major mayonnaise manufacturers in Iceland.

The Icelandic Competition Authority recently intervened in the acquisition of Gunnars by the Skagafjörður Trading Company, which would see the merger of popular brands E. Finnson, Vogabær, and Gunnars. According to authorities, the merger potentially places the new mayo conglomerate in too dominant a position in the market.

Corporate representatives have however disputed this claim, stating that given the difference between their products offered, the new merger would not represent a sauce monopoly.

Now, however, the Icelandic Competition Authority is in the sticky situation of defining what exactly constitutes cold, ready-made sauces, and how they differ from other condiments, spreads, and dips.

In a statement to Vísir, Páll Gunnar Pálsson, director of the Icelandic Competition Authority, said: “Parties to the merger thought we should include guacamole, BBQ sauce, ketchup and stuff like that to replace the cocktail-mixed sauces. Now we find that we have to define these terms rather closely, and we realize that it sounds rather peculiar.

The official report, published on January 26, is some 130 pages long. In its pages can be found subsections detailing at length defining hot sauce, mustard, sour cream, BBQ-sauce and other popular condiments.

Páll Gunnar continued: “It’s fair to say that we have actually had serious meeting about whether ketchup can be substituted for cocktail sauce on a hamburger and whether sour cream can be used in place of mayonnaise. This is important for the companies involved, so it’s important to us. And it matters to consumers.”

 

With Strike Vote Nearing, Efling Refuses to Hand Over Membership Records

Aðalsteinn Leifsson

In light of Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir’s rejection of state mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson’s proposal, Efling is now being asked to hand over its list of registered members so that a vote on the proposed mediation can take place.

As of the time of writing, Efling, Iceland’s second-largest trade union, has refused to comply with the request. Now, state mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson is appealing the matter to the Reykjavík District Court.

Read more: State Mediator’s Proposal Meets with Criticism

Following a historically short meeting between Efling and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), the state mediator suggested applying the terms negotiated between SGS, another major trade union federation, and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise. Sólveig Anna, in her trademark style, rejected the proposal and called into question its legality. Not all agree with this legal interpretation, including former state mediator Ásmundur Stefánsson, who stated to Morgunblaðið: “it is quite clear that the mediator has the authority to submit a mediation proposal and does not need the consent of the disputing parties to do so. That is a fact.”

Now, in an attempt to avert a strike, the state mediator seeks to submit the terms of the previous SGS agreement to Efling members.

See also: Efling Chair Demands Labour Market MP Intercede

Because of a particularly difficult negotiating climate including rising costs of living, and because Efling represents many of Iceland’s lowest-paid workers, Efling has been particularly militant in its recent negotiations.

However, some have pointed out that Efling leadership’s entrenched position may not necessarily represent the general position of its members. Of its some 20,000 members, a few hundred in the Reykjavík hotel sector would be affected by the strike.

Members of Efling employed in six Reykjavík hotels are expected to vote on their strike action tonight. If the vote goes through, the strike is expected to begin next week.

Update: Efling has since filed an administrative complaint to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour Market regarding the conduct of the state mediator. The Reykjavík District Court has given Efling until this Friday to formally decide whether they will hand over their membership registration to the state mediator.

Inflation Rate Continues Climb, Now at 9.9%

currency iceland

The latest indicators from Statistics Iceland show a month-by-month increase in the Consumer Price Index of 0.85%.

Inflation now rests at 9.9%, where it last sat in July 2022. Inflation rates saw slight decreases in the fall of 2022, but continued to rise throughout the winter.

See also: September Inflation Drops to 9.3%

Consumers in Iceland have especially felt the effect of inflation on food prices, with staples like milk, eggs, and cheese being especially affected at 4.4%.

Other consumer goods affected include alcohol (5,5%), tobacco (5.5%), and new vehicles (9.8%).

consumer price index iceland
Statistics Iceland

However, Statistics Iceland points out that many clearance sales after the holiday season have driven down the cost of some consumer goods in Iceland, such as clothing (-8.4%) and household appliances (-6.2%). Airfares have likewise decreased by around 9%.

With Efling trade union still in negotiations, read more about how interest rates could affect contract re-negotiations.

Weather Warnings Throughout Iceland Today

meteorological office iceland

A state of uncertainty has been declared over the expected storms today, January 30.

Yellow and Orange weather advisories are in effect for much of the nation, and experts expect conditions to worsen significantly after noon today.

Wind speeds are expected between 15 to 30 m/s [34 to 67 mph].

In light of the conditions, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared a state of uncertainty. Disruptions to traffic throughout Iceland are also expected. Residents are advised not to travel until tomorrow, especially in areas under the orange warning, including South Iceland, the Westfjords, the Faxaflói Bay, and Southeast Iceland.

In a statement to Vísir, Einar Sveinbjörnsson, a meteorologist for the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, said: “From noon and on we expect it to really start howling, with weather conditions quickly worsening after noon. It’s an easterly wind, so we expect it to be especially windy in the south, by Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull, but as of now we are still unsure about the precipitation, whether it will rain or snow.”

He further stated: “It’s the kind of storm that passes, and by evening it will largely subside, though not completely because the wind direction will change and the weather will be different tomorrow night.”

Travellers can expect road closures throughout the country. Given conditions, closures are considered likely on Hellisheiði, an important stretch of Route 1 connecting the capital region and South Iceland.

Deep North Episode 10: First Among Equals

swimming pools iceland

Every weekday morning at the public pool in West Reykjavík (Vesturbæjarlaug), Halldór Bergmann – called Dóri – slips into his grey, square leg suit and declares that he shall swim 1,800 metres (1.1 miles). He is 68 years old, and, also, a great mangler of the truth. He swims only 200 metres (660 feet), on a good day, but does not like the facts getting in the way of a good time – and this may be his best quality: his penchant for childlike embellishment. It’s this trait, above any else, perhaps, that has won over a troop of loyal followers, and why those followers have, in the spirit of his own whimsy, taken to calling him “the Commander.”

In the latest episode of Deep North, we consider Icelandic swimming pool culture and ask: is the public swimming pool a wellspring of social democracy?

Icelandic Animated Short Nominated for Oscar

sara gunnarsdóttir

Icelandic director Sara Gunnarsdóttir’s animated short, “My Year of Dicks,” was nominated for an Academy Award under the category Best Animated Short Film.

The nominations were announced at a ceremony last night, January 24, where the title of the film was occasion for some humour. 

The animated short is based on the comedic memoirs of Pamela Ribon, and centres around an American teenager’s coming of age.

Also nominated for best short film were The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse; The Flying Sailor; Ice Merchants; and An Ostrich Told me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe it.

The final selection will be announced at the Academy Awards ceremony, hosted this March in Los Angeles.

Controversial Immigration Bill Back on Parliamentary Agenda

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

After an agreement to shelve further discussion of Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson’s immigration bill until after Christmas, parliament has once again taken up the bill for discussion.

Discussions of the bill are expected to last for some time, as the bill has previously been the object of much parliamentary debate. This last fall, the bill was presented and discussed for the fifth time in parliament.

The bill aims to shore up what the minister perceives as holes in Iceland’s immigration laws that are open to exploitation. In a statement to Morgunblaðið in October of last year, the minister said: “There are serious concerns within the Schengen area that the refugee system is being abused. In fact, it is more than a concern: we have knowledge of this.” Among other changes, the new legislation would introduce stricter border controls and more restrictions to movement for asylum seekers.

The bill has drawn criticism since its inception, and several organisations have called on the government to withdraw the legislation, including many youth organisations throughout Iceland. Several notable advocacy groups in Iceland, including the Red Cross and Amnesty International, have made critical comments about the proposed legislation. Student groups could be seen outside parliament on Monday, January 23, protesting the bill.

Now, in the revived debate around the bill, the Pirate Party attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss the bill from the parliamentary agenda. In a statement to RÚV, Pirate Party MP Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir said: “Considering the situation in our society, we find it unjust that the governing majority here in parliament wants to prioritize this issue. There is a state of emergency in the health care system, in addition to a cost of living crisis, which Icelandic households are feeling.”

Much of the debate around the bill revolves around article 8 of the new bill and its suggested changes to the so-called “12-month rule.” Certain loopholes in the bill could, for instance, deny children their right to have their case heard if their parent or guardian violates the conditions of their visa. Critics state that this denies essential rights to children, and fear the bill may be abused in its current form.