Hreinn Palson

MA International Studies (Diplomacy) 2004


After a wonderful time in Birmingham in 2003- 2004 I graduated with a degree in International studies - Diplomacy. In Birmingham I was lucky enough to get to know a great group of fellow students and superb teachers. The different people, cultures and views from all around the world have served me well in my chosen profession in the Icelandic Foreign Service.

After graduation I was fortunate enough to get a placement as a trainee in the Icelandic Foreign Service and posted to the Embassy in Washington DC. Upon returning to Iceland I started working in the Foreign Ministry administration and consular section. Working in administration gave me a great overall view of the tasks undertaken by the Ministry and consular matters allowed me to work with and help individuals often in desperate situations. One of the more dramatic consular assignments was evacuating 12 Icelandic citizens from Lebanon during the Israeli incursion in 2006. After joint Nordic efforts to transport all our citizens out of Lebanon to Damascus I found myself on a rescue mission in an Icelandic Jumbo jet with 450 Nordic citizens flying them out of a war zone and back to their homes.

In 2007 the US Navy base in Iceland was closed and the Foreign Ministry was charged with running a base fit for 5000 soldiers - bunkers, apartments, shops and all. Being on the town counsel of a ghost town was an interesting experience. In addition to taking over the base Iceland had to reorganize its defence planning, I therefore also took part in preparing the set up of a new government agency - the Icelandic Defence Agency.

In 2008 I was asked to take over planning for the Icelandic participation at the World Exposition in Shanghai 2010, a large public diplomacy project that also involves political and economic relations with China. Later I was given the grandiose title of Commissioner General for the Icelandic Participation. In 2009 I moved to Shanghai to work on the EXPO project and in conjunction with that I was appointed Consul General in Shanghai.

The two jobs involved a great deal of public diplomacy and I dug up my old notes from Dr. Dunn’s public diplomacy class to get a better grasp of the task at hand. Handling PR for a country that at the time was mostly known in China, and the world over, for having a banking system that had spectacularly collapsed and a spewing volcano that closed down world wide air traffic was no easy task. After 9 months of interviews and information sharing the interest of the Chinese press had turned from those gloomy reports towards Iceland’s solutions in the field of clean energy, welfare, high tech industries and tourism.

At the beginning of this year I was posted back to Reykjavík to take up a new position as Director of the Foreign Ministries Translation Centre. This involves the process of translating EU aquis into Icelandic law in preparation for possible accession of Iceland into the EU. I have just returned from my first business trip to Brussels since I was there as a POLSIS student on a study trip. Being there again really took me back to the great experiences and the people I got to now during my studies in Birmingham. A final note, after a short stopover in London the other day and meeting some fellow alumni we are intent on planning our 10 year graduation reunion in the not so distant future.