The European Free Trade Association: Bon appétit!

September 4th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, European Union, General

© efta.int

© efta.int

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the European Single Market and are part of the Schengen Area. They are not, however, party to the European Union Customs Union. EFTA was historically one of the two dominant western European trade blocks, but is now much smaller and closely associated with its historical competitor, the European Union. It was established on 3 May 1960 to serve as an alternative trade bloc for those European states that were unable or unwilling to join the then European Economic Community (EEC), which subsequently became the European Union. The Stockholm Convention, to establish the EFTA, was signed on 4 January 1960 in the Swedish capital by seven countries (known as the “outer seven“). Whilst the EFTA is not a customs union and member states have full rights to enter into bilateral third-country trade arrangements, it does have a coordinated trade policy. As a result, its member states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with the EU and a number of other countries. To participate in the EU’s single market, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are parties to the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), with compliances regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Switzerland has a set of bilateral agreements with the EU instead.   read more…

La Chaux-de-Fonds in Neuchâtel

January 5th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, UNESCO World Heritage

Museum International d'Horlogerie © Schwizgebel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Museum International d’Horlogerie © Schwizgebel/cc-by-sa-3.0

La Chaux-de-Fonds is a Swiss city of the district of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel. It is located in the Jura mountains at an altitude of 1000 m, a few kilometres south of the French border. After Geneva and Lausanne, it is the third largest city located completely in the Romandie, the French-speaking part of the country, with a population of 40,000. In 2009, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, its sister city, have jointly been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for their exceptional universal value. It is the tenth Swiss Site to be awarded World Heritage status, joining others such as the Old City of Bern, the Rhaetian Railway and the Abbey and Convent of St. Gallen.   read more…

The Palace of Nations in Geneva

December 1st, 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, House of the Month

Palace of Nations © flickr.com - Ville Oksanen/cc-by-sa-2.0

Palace of Nations © flickr.com – Ville Oksanen/cc-by-sa-2.0

The Palace of Nations is the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva, located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was built between 1929 and 1938 to serve as the headquarters of the League of Nations. It has served as the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva since 1946 when the Secretary-General of the United Nations signed a Headquarters Agreement with the Swiss authorities, although Switzerland did not become a member of the United Nations until 2002. In 2012 alone, the Palace of Nations hosted more than 10,000 intergovernmental meetings. An architectural competition held in the 1920s to choose a design for the complex described the project as follows:   read more…

Theme Week Iceland – Sauðárkrókur

October 29th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

© Steinib68/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Steinib68/cc-by-sa-3.0

Sauðárkrókur is a town in Skagafjörður in northern Iceland and a part of the municipality of Skagafjörður. Sauðárkrókur is the largest town in Northwest Iceland and the second-largest town on the north coast of Iceland, with a population of 2,600. It is the centre for commerce and services in the district, and an important link in Iceland’s food production. The population of Sauðárkrókur has grown steadily in recent years, and its economy is relatively diverse. Sauðárkrókur got its name from the creek that runs through the land. The creek is named Sauðá, and the name Sauðárkrókur indicates that this is the coast where Sauðá meets the Arctic Ocean. Directly translated to English, the name would be ‘Sheep-river-hook’.   read more…

Theme Week Iceland – Akureyri

October 28th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Hlíðarfjall ski slopes just west of the town © Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats

Hlíðarfjall ski slopes just west of the town © Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats

Akureyri is a small city in northern Iceland. It is Iceland’s second largest urban area (after the Capital Region) and fourth largest municipality (after Reykjavík, Hafnarfjörður, and Kópavogur). Nicknamed the Capital of North Iceland, Akureyri is an important port and fishing centre. The area where Akureyri is located was settled in the 9th century but did not receive a municipal charter until 1786. The town was the site of Allied units during World War II. Further growth occurred after the war as the Icelandic population increasingly moved to urban areas. The area has a relatively mild climate due to geographical factors, and the town’s ice-free harbour has played a significant role in its history.   read more…

Theme Week Iceland – Keflavík

October 27th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Keflavík from seaside © Chmee2/Valtameri/cc-by-3.0

Keflavík from seaside © Chmee2/Valtameri/cc-by-3.0

Keflavík (meaning Driftwood Bay) is a town in the Reykjanes region in southwest Iceland. As of 2016, its population when combined with the nearby town Njarðvík, is 15,000. In 1995 it merged with Njarðvík and Hafnir to form a municipality called Reykjanesbær with a population of 15,000.   read more…

Theme Week Iceland – Ísafjörður

October 26th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

Fishery Museum © TommyBee

Fishery Museum © TommyBee

Ísafjörður (meaning ice fjord or fjord of ice) is a town in the northwest of Iceland. It is the seat of Ísafjarðarbær municipality. With a population of about 2,600, Ísafjörður is the largest town in the peninsula of Vestfirðir (Westfjords) and the seat of the Ísafjarðarbær municipality, which includes the nearby Hnífsdalur, Flateyri, Suðureyri, and Þingeyri. It is located on a spit of sand, or eyri, in Skutulsfjörður, a fjord which meets the waters of the larger Ísafjarðardjúp. According to the Landnámabók (the book of settlement), Skutulsfjördur was first settled by Helgi Magri Hrólfsson in the 9th century. In the 16th century, the town grew as it became a trading post for foreign merchants. Witch trials were common around the same time throughout the Westfjords, and many people were banished to the nearby peninsula of Hornstrandir, now a national nature reserve. The town of Ísafjörður was granted municipal status in 1786.   read more…

Theme Week Iceland – Fljótsdalshérað

October 25th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

© Bultro/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Bultro/cc-by-sa-3.0

Fljótsdalshérað is a municipality located in the Eastern Region of Iceland. It is the largest municipality in the country by area. The biggest town in the municipality is Egilsstaðir, with a population of 2,300. The Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant is located in the municipality. The large municipality extends from Héraðsflói bay in the northeast to the Vatnajökull glacier in the south west. When main town Egilsstaðir is the elongated lake or river of the same name, Lagarfljót, also called Lögurinn.   read more…

Theme Week Iceland

October 24th, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks

Cheers! © flickr.com - Christine Zenino/cc-by-2.0

Cheers! © flickr.com – Christine Zenino/cc-by-2.0

Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 332,529 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence still keeps summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate. Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and medieval sagas.   read more…

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