A whole new angle on the ever-brewing Ministry of the Interior scandal came to light when it was reported that Interior Minister Hanna Birna had contacted then-Commissioner of the Capital Area Police Stefán Eiríksson, in person and by phone, in part to ask if police could be trusted with ministry files, and when their investigations would end. Cue media maelstrom, replete with Parliamentary Ombudsman Tryggvi Gunnarsson formally requesting the minister explain herself. At the time of writing, the Ombudsman is still waiting for a final answer from Hanna Birna, who had until August 15 to respond.
Former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde hit the diplomatic jackpot when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed him to an ambassadorship, with some sources indicating that he will be stationed in Washington, D.C. Not too bad for a guy who was found by a court of law to be guilty of negligence during his time in office.
Iceland’s love-hate relationship with tourism has also been getting attention in the news lately. Even the Director General of the Icelandic Tourist Board, Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, believes the industry has been growing too quickly for our tiny little island to handle, while Jóhann Már Sigurbjörnsson, the chair of the Renters’ Association of Iceland, claims tourism is having a negative impact on the rental market. Even off-road driving has become a subject of concern related to tourism. So far, no tangible solutions have been offered as to how to make tourism more sustainable.
It seems that Iceland’s government and its president are at odds over foreign policy. Just days after Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson announced that Iceland would continue to support Ukraine, even in the face of an import ban imposed by Russia, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson’s office reported that he met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the “accident” that was Malaysia Air Flight MH-17, making Iceland’s president the only source apart from Kremlin-backed RT.com still referring to the incident as an “accident.”
The ongoing story of Harriet Cardew continues, as a lawyer for her family now contends that the National Registry is violating Iceland’s constitution by refusing to grant a passport to an Icelandic citizen. While the Registry say that only Icelandic names may be used in passports, it has been noted that there are plenty of Icelandic passports issued that do not use Icelandic names at all.
One of the highlights of the Icelandic summer, Reykjavík Pride, happened in a major way last weekend. A record-setting 90,000 people attended the festivities, comprising over a fourth the population of the country. Granted, a great many of these people were definitely the aforementioned tourists, but still—not too shabby!
No news round-up would be complete without that perennial hot button topic, whaling. It’s been reported that there is actually a shortage of minke whale meat for Iceland’s shops and restaurants. As polls show that only about 3% of Icelanders they eat whale regularly, the demand likely comes from other sources. The causes of the shortage have been attributed to an overlap of who’s fishing what in Faxaflói Bay around Reykjavík, but also possibly to climate change—that minke whales are staying in southern waters for longer, making them show up later in the hunting season.