2031 Handball World Championship to Take Place in Iceland

Laugardalur, Reykjavík

The 2031 IHF Men’s World Championship will take place collectively in Iceland, Denmark and Norway, the International Handball Federation (IHF) announced today. The handball games taking place in Iceland should be played at the new National Arena in Laugardalur, Reykjavík, according to a RÚV report. Authorities have already announced that the long-awaited arena should be up and running by 2031.

Small nation success

Iceland submitted the joint application with Denmark and Norway this time, but hosted the games alone in 1995. “This joint effort will not only elevate handball in Iceland, but also show and prove that small nations can organise major sporting events through strong international cooperation,” said Guðmundur B. Ólafsson, president of the Icelandic Handball Association.

Popular sport in Iceland

Handball is a popular sport in Iceland. The women’s national team competed in the World Championship last year and have qualified for this year’s European Championship, a tournament they also qualified for in 2010 and 2012. The men’s national team has also historically been competitive on the international stage, winning a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

The IHF also announced today that the 2029 IHF Men’s World Championship would take place in France and Germany, with the 2029 IHF Women’s World Championship set in Spain and the 2031 edition in Czechia and Poland.

Over 13% of Icelanders Live Abroad

Tenerife elderly senior Spain

Over 13% of Icelandic citizens live abroad, according to the latest figures from Registers Iceland. While 324,193 Icelanders live in Iceland, 49,870 live outside of the country. About three-fifths of Icelandic emigrants live in other Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland). RÚV reported first.

Denmark tops the list for relocation

Denmark, Iceland’s former coloniser, is the most popular country for Icelanders to relocate to, with 11,982 Icelandic citizens living there currently. This represents 24% of all Icelanders who live abroad or nearly one-quarter. Norway and Sweden are in second and third place, home to 9,250 and 9,046 Icelanders respectively.

Number of Icelanders living abroad growing

The US and UK round out the top five, with 6,583 Icelanders living in the United States and 2,518 in the United Kingdom. Over 900 Icelanders live in Spain, a popular vacation destination for Icelandic citizens. In most of the top 15 countries on the list, the number of Icelandic residents has been steadily increasing. The same is true of the number of Icelandic citizens living abroad in general. In 2004, they numbered 29,591, and at the end of 2023, they numbered 49,870.

It bears noting that Iceland’s population has also grown in recent years, though not as much as previously believed.

 

Icelander Extradited to Norway in Controversial Custody Dispute

An Icelandic woman was extradited to Norway last week in a case that has caused broad controversy, RÚV reports. The woman, Edda Björk Arnardóttir, was accused of taking her children from Norway to Iceland without permission last year. The boys’ father has legal custody of the children.

Last year Edda Björk flew to Norway on a private jet, picked up her three sons, and brought them back to Iceland without their father’s permission. Norwegian courts had previously ruled that the boys’ father would have custody over them. Their father is Icelandic but lives in Norway, where the boys are also legal residents.

Supporters try to stop extradition

Four months ago, Norwegian authorities demanded that Edda Björk be extradited so she can attend trial in Norway. She was arrested last Tuesday and held in Hólmsheiði prison, where a group of her friends, family, and other supporters gathered and aimed, unsuccessfully, to prevent her extradition. She is now in a high security prison in Norway.

Edda Björk denies that any attempt was made to issue her a summons, and says no one asked if she would attend the trial or not. Others have criticised Edda Björk’s treatment in the case, including lawyer and former MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir, who has asserted that Icelandic authorities need to consider the well-being of her children in their decisions.

A violation of rights, says lawyer

Edda Björk’s lawyer Hildur Sólveig Pétursdóttir called the extradition a gross violation of Edda Björk’s rights. She pointed out that Edda Björk had already submitted to a travel ban and had relinquished her passport to authorities and that it would have been possible to ensure her presence at the trial via other, less extreme, means.

Norwegian Child Welfare Services have faced heavy criticism in recent years due to its decisions. In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the institution in a child welfare case.

Iceland’s Return to Handball World Stage Ends in Defeat

Stavanger, Norway

Iceland’s women’s handball team lost 30-24 to Slovenia in their first World Championship match in 12 years. The team will face Olympic champions France tomorrow.

First major tournament in 11 years

The Icelandic women’s national handball team suffered a 30-24 defeat against Slovenia in their opening match in Group D at the Women’s Handball World Championship in Stavanger, Norway yesterday. 

The game marked Iceland’s first appearance in a World Championship final in 12 years and their first in a major tournament in 11 years. 

The result increases the likelihood that Iceland and Angola will face off in a decisive match for a spot in the intermediate round in the final game of the group.

Comeback ultimately thwarted

As noted by Mbl.is, there was evident nervousness among the Icelandic players at the start of the game. Early mistakes in offence allowed Slovenia to capitalise with rapid counter-attacks, resulting in a significant early lead of 11-4. Iceland rallied impressively towards the end of the first half, closing the gap to 16-13 at halftime.

The teams exchanged goals in the second half, with Iceland putting on a strong mid-half performance to bring the score to a narrow 20-19. Despite this effort, Iceland couldn’t level the score, and Slovenia extended their lead to 24-20 with ten minutes left.

After a strategic timeout, Iceland managed to score two quick goals, cutting Slovenia’s lead to 24-22. But Slovenia’s three subsequent goals lessened Iceland’s chances of a reversal. Iceland’s valiant attempt to recover from a six-goal deficit proved insufficient against Slovenia’s experienced team, who leveraged their expertise in the game’s crucial moments.

Next up: the Olympic champions

Perla Ruth Albertsdóttir, Sandra Erlingsdóttir, and Thea Imani Sturludóttir each scored five goals for Iceland. Elín Rósa Magnúsdóttir scored four. Goalkeeper Elín Jóna Þorsteinsdóttir made nine saves in the Icelandic goal. 

Iceland’s next match in the group is against the Olympic champions, France, on Saturday.

Norwegian Crown Prince Visits Iceland

norway prince iceland

Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon is visiting Iceland for the Nordic Round Table conference.

On the docket are Nordic responses to climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Trying his hand at Icelandic, he briefly greet the assembly, but continued his talk in English. “We meet here in Reykjavík during difficult times. In these uncertain times, Norway emphasizes international law and continuing strong international cooperation. It has been going well for nearly thirty years and we must ensure that the Nordic Round Table remains the main forum for cooperation in the Nordics. Norwegians are looking forward to taking over the presidency next year,” he stated at a breakfast meeting this morning.

In addition to the conference, Prince Haakon also accompanied President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson on a hike to the eruption site at Fagradalsfjall. They were accompanied by both a ranger and geologist, who informed them about the geology of the Reykjanes region.

After the hike, the Crown Prince was invited to dinner at Bessastaðir, the presidential residence in Iceland.

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.”

Capelin Quota to Be Increased by 50,000 Tonnes

iceland fishing

Icelandic fishing companies are likely to be granted an additional quota of ca. 50,000 tonnes’ worth of capelin, Vísir reports. The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of capelin season, the processing of roe, commences.

Ministry to reallocate the Norwegian capelin quota

As Norwegians vessels were unable to use the full extent of their capelin allowance in Iceland – when their season on Icelandic waters concluded – the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries is expected to reallocate the remainder of the quota among Icelandic vessels, Vísir reports. As reported by Mbl.is, the authorities rejected Norway’s request for an extension in February.

This reallocation, which could comprise around 50,000 tonnes, could come into effect as early as today. If Icelandic vessels manage to fully utilise this additional quota, the value of the catch could be worth between two to three billion ISK (€14-21 million / $15-23 million).

The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of the capelin season, the processing of roe, commences. Roe-processing is expected to be in full swing around the country, as companies race against time to catch as much capelin as possible before they spawn.

As noted in Iceland Review last year, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland set its new advice for capelin catch quotas at 904,200 tonnes for the 2021/22 season. This quota is nearly sevenfold of last year’s quota and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020 when no capelin quota was issued at all.

Iceland Signs Free Trade Agreement with UK

fish fishing haddock

Iceland and the UK signed their new free trade agreement in London on Thursday, RÚV reports. Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says that in finalizing the agreement, Iceland has “secured our interests” with its second-most important trading partner.

The deal, which also extends to fellow EFTA member countries Norway and Liechtenstein, was announced last month and replaces the temporary agreement that went into effect after Britain left the EU. “In terms of overall trade volumes,” the BBC reported, “this deal is more significant for Norway and Iceland than it is for the UK,” although importantly for post-Brexit Britain, it does signal that the nation is quickly making new trade deals for itself. The UK government also said that reduced import tariffs on products such as shrimp, prawns, and haddock would “cut costs for UK fish processing, helping to support jobs in Scotland, East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.”

At the time, Guðlaugur Þór hailed the deal as “crucial for both Icelandic companies and consumers,” but those in Iceland’s fishing sector have expressed disappointment with the agreement, believing that little will change for their industry prospects. However, speaking to reporters after signing today, Guðlaugur Þór asserted that “[t]his is not an endpoint. It is, however, gratifying if people are seeing the importance of increasing and strengthening our trade network and increasing our access to foreign markets.”

Sky-High Fines for Norwegian Bank that Serviced Samherji

Boat with Samherji Logo

Norwegian bank DNB has been reprimanded by Norway’s Financial Supervisory Authority, which criticised it for failing to regulate the transactions of six companies related to Icelandic seafood magnate Samherji. The bank was fined NOK 400 million ($48.2 million/€40 million) this morning for insufficient surveillance of money laundering. Kjarninn reports that the bank will not appeal the fine.

One of Iceland’s largest seafood companies, Samherji was the centre of an international scandal in late 2019 when an investigation alleged the company’s officials had bribed the Namibian government to gain access to lucrative fishing grounds. Leaked documents suggested the company had also taken advantage of international loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

DNB Terminated Services for Samherji Following Investigation

Most of Samherji’s financial transactions were mediated by DNB, Norway’s largest bank and one-third owned by the country’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. After the Samherji investigation became public, DNB asked the fishing company for documents to clarify their business with the bank and counter allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. The documents provided by Samherji were deemed insufficient to “clear up the issues brought up by the bank,” and DNB subsequently terminated deposit and payment services for several Samherji accounts at the bank.

In December 2020, the bank announced it was facing a fine equivalent to ISK 5.7 billion for poor money laundering protection. DNB was also investigated by the Norwegian Economic Crimes Police after the Samherji documents were made public.

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.