Zelenskyy to Meet with Nordic Leaders in Helsinki

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy will be present at a one-day Nordic Summit in Helsinki today. During the summit, Zelenskyy will also attend bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of the four guest countries, including Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Discussing Russia’s “war of aggression in Ukraine”

Earlier this morning, the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland announced that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy would attend a one-day Nordic-Ukrainian summit, as hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the president’s residence.

As noted by Mbl.is, Selenskyy’s arrival in Finland has been shrouded in secrecy, which has inspired extensive security measures in Helsinki. The summit will be attended by President Niinistö and President Zelenskyy, as well as Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, and Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

As noted in the press release, the leaders will discuss “Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, the developments in Ukraine’s relationship with EU and NATO, and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace. These official discussions will be followed by a joint press conference. The Nordic Prime ministers will also have bilateral meetings with President Zelenskyy.”

Finnish President Niinistö will have his first meeting with Zelensky before noon.

Finland’s first meeting with fellow nations as a NATO member

As noted by RÚV, the summit is noteworthy not only in light of Zelensky’s attendance – but also because Finland is now talking to its fellow nations for the first time as an official NATO member. Finland joined NATO on April 4, and with that the alliance’s border with Russia more than doubled.

Sweden remains the only attendee who remains outside NATO; Sweden applied for membership, alongside Finland, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Two weeks until the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavík

As previously reported, there are less than two weeks until the summit of the Council of Europe will be held in Reykjavík. It remains to be seen whether Zelenskyy will attend.

It’s also been about a month and a half since PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, alongside Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, attended a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. At the end of the visit, Katrín stated, among other things, that she had discussed what could be achieved with the summit in Reykjavík.

Finnish PM Sanna Marin on Official Visit to Iceland

finnish pm sanna marin iceland

Finnish PM Sanna Marin is on an official state visit to Iceland. On the agenda for her meetings with Icelandic PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir are the energy transition, climate change, Nordic cooperation, and the War in Ukraine.

Finland, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has applied for membership in NATO, to which Iceland has belonged since its 1949 foundation. Previously neutral, the invasion has forced Finland to reassess its security situation, which will now be the topic of talks between the two PMs.

Among the several events and roundtables the Finnish PM has attended include a talk at the Nordic House and a “lunch-time chat” at the National Museum of Iceland.

Read more: Iceland Would Support Finland Joining NATO

Though Finland has remained officially neutral for decades, it has in the past cooperated with NATO exercises and projects. This past May, it officially announced its intention to apply for NATO membership, alongside fellow Nordic nation Sweden, which had also been neutral.

PM Sanna Marin also spoke about the importance of women in positions of power, calling it a great need. Even in Europe, few women are in leadership positions, but she identified the Nordic nations as leading forces in this regard. Icelandic PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir likewise spoke to the importance of having people with diverse backgrounds in leadership positions, and for people with different experiences to be heard and recognised.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir also highlighted the common commitment shared by the Nordic nations to social-democratic ideals: “We have open debates and we have strong national assemblies in our communities. This is not least important because we are seeing certain democratic setbacks. Not only in distant countries, but in Europe as well. These values of the Nordic countries are more important than ever.”

Agreeing that the Nordics share much in terms of history and culture, the Finnish PM stated that Iceland and Finland stand to learn much from one another. Joking, she also stated: “Of course, even though Iceland isn’t a part of the EU, it’s always welcome.”

Building on the strong history of cooperation, Katrín Jakobsdóttir cited research, development, and education as fields to be further improved between the nations.

Notably, Iceland was one of he first nations to openly support Finland and Sweden’s NATO applications, which are still pending approval.

Nordic Bishops Gather for Conference in Akureyri, Discuss ‘the Church in a Changing World’

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

The Nordic Bishops’ Conference took place in Akureyri, North Iceland this week, RÚV reports. Forty-five bishops were in attendance. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, Bishop of Iceland, says that gatherings such as this one, where attendees can share their experiences and learn from one another, are important for the work of the church.

The conference is held every three years in one of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). Agnes was among the organizers of this year’s event.

“There’s always a theme that we lay out and have lectures about,” she explained. This year, the theme was the church in a changing world because “naturally, a lot has changed.”

The theme was intentionally broad, giving the bishops an opportunity to discuss, among other things, climate change, democracy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Agnes says it’s important for the Nordic bishops to meet regularly “because we have many common issues and most of the ones we’re dealing with are the same everywhere, so we need to fortify ourselves and together, find ways of responding to all the changes that are taking place.”

Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Sweden, agrees. “It’s important to meet for personal reasons. Bishops need to gather and exchange experience,” she said. “Our churches have much in common so we’re familiar with each other’s work, but they are also different in ways that makes the conference inspiring and exciting. From the church’s point of view, the conference is important because we in the Nordic countries need to work together to strengthen our actions and grow together spiritually.”

Iceland Would Support Finland Joining NATO, Prime Minister Says

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has stated that the country would support Finland and Sweden if they decide to join NATO, RÚV reports. Support for Finland joining NATO has more than doubled among the general public since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Katrín stated that Iceland’s Security Council is updating its risk assessment for Iceland.

Katrín stated that the re-evaluation is “Based on both the events in Ukraine and what could possibly follow: that is, the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. So this work is ongoing.”

Katrín travelled to Finland earlier this month, where she met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (pictured above). The two leaders discussed “Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the European security situation and deepening Nordic cooperation,” according to a tweet from the Finnish government.

When asked about Russia’s potential reaction to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Katrín stated: “We see that they do not take this well in public discussion. But the way I look at it the Finns and Swedes make their decisions and we will stand with them in their decisions.”

Iceland’s COVID-19 Border Testing: Travellers from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland to Be Exempted

COVID-19 Iceland

Starting on Thursday, travellers from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland will be added to a short list of countries whose residents are exempt from both quarantine and COVID-19 testing upon entering Iceland. The change applies to residents of the four countries arriving on July 16 or later. Travellers from the Faroe Islands and Greenland continue to be exempt from both quarantine and testing.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason announced at a briefing today that he had decided to “speed up” exempting travellers from certain countries from screening at the border. He had previously announced no such decision would be made until August. The exemption applies to residents of Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, as well as any travellers who have been in those countries for 14 consecutive days prior to travelling to Iceland. The new regulation also applies to Icelanders living in those countries. Icelandic citizens and residents arriving from other countries are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, or a 4-5 day quarantine and two tests.

Read More: What do I need to know when travelling to Iceland in 2020 Post COVID-19?

The number of travellers entering Iceland from abroad had been steadily increasing since the country implemented COVID-19 testing at its borders. In recent days, the number has been straining the country’s testing capacity of 2,000 samples per day, a factor that likely influenced the Chief Epidemiologist’s decision to add more countries to Iceland’s safe list.

Þórólfur stated that Iceland was not ready to accept foreign COVID-19 test certificates in lieu of local testing or quarantine, but may do so in future.