Europe :: Iceland

Introduction ::Iceland

    Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Denmark granted limited home rule in 1874 and complete independence in 1944. The second half of the 20th century saw substantial economic growth driven primarily by the fishing industry. The economy diversified greatly after the country joined the European Economic Area in 1994, but Iceland was especially hard hit by the global financial crisis in the years following 2008. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first rate by world standards.

Geography ::Iceland

    Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom
    65 00 N, 18 00 W
    total: 103,000 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 108
    land: 100,250 sq km
    water: 2,750 sq km
    slightly smaller than Kentucky
    0 km
    4,970 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
    temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
    mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
    lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
    fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
    arable land: 1.19%
    permanent crops: 0%
    other: 98.81% (2011)
    170 cu km (2011)
    total: 0.17 cu km/yr (49%/8%/42%)
    per capita: 539.2 cu m/yr (2005)
    earthquakes and volcanic activity
    volcanism: Iceland, situated on top of a hotspot, experiences severe volcanic activity; Eyjafjallajokull (elev. 1,666 m) erupted in 2010, sending ash high into the atmosphere and seriously disrupting European air traffic; scientists continue to monitor nearby Katla (elev. 1,512 m), which has a high probability of eruption in the very near future, potentially disrupting air traffic; Grimsvoetn and Hekla are Iceland's most active volcanoes; other historically active volcanoes include Askja, Bardarbunga, Brennisteinsfjoll, Esjufjoll, Hengill, Krafla, Krisuvik, Kverkfjoll, Oraefajokull, Reykjanes, Torfajokull, and Vestmannaeyjar
    water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
    party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
    strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

People and Society ::Iceland

Government ::Iceland

    conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
    conventional short form: Iceland
    local long form: Lydveldid Island
    local short form: Island
    constitutional republic
    name: Reykjavik
    geographic coordinates: 64 09 N, 21 57 W
    time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland
    1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark; birthday of Jon SIGURDSSON leader of Iceland's 19th Century independence movement)
    Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
    16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944; amended many times
    civil law system influenced by the Danish model
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
    head of government: Prime Minister Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON (since 23 May 2013)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits); election last held on 30 June 2012 (next to be held in June 2016); note - following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
    election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; percent of vote - Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON 52.8%, Thora ARNORSDOTTIR 33.2%, Ari Trausti GUDMUNDSSON 8.6%, other 5.4%
    unicameral Althingi (parliament) (63 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 27 April 2013 (next to be held in 2017)
    election results: percent of vote by party - SDA 30.16%, IP 25.4%, LGM 17.46%, PP 14.29%, Bright Future 3.18%, Dawn 3.18%, Rainbow 3.18%, Pirate Party 1.59%, Solidarity 1.59%; seats by party - SDA 19, IP 16, LGM 11, PP 9, Bright Future 2, Dawn 2, Rainbow 2, Pirate Party 1, Solidarity 1
    highest court(s): Supreme Court or Haestirettur (consists of 9 judges)
    judge selection and term of office: judges proposed by Ministry of Interior selection committee and appointed by the president; judges appointed for an indefinite period
    subordinate courts: 8 district courts; Labor Court
    Bright Future [Guomundur STEINGRIMSSON] [Robert MARSHALL]
    Dawn [Margret Tryggvadottir Por SAARI]
    Independence Party (Sjalfstaedisflokkurinn) or IP [Bjarni BENEDIKTSSON]
    Left-Green Movement or LGM [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]
    Pirate Party [Biritta JONSDOTTIR]
    Progressive Party (Framsoknarflokkurinn) or PP [Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON]
    Rainbow [Atli GISLASON] [Jon BJARNASON]
    Social Democratic Alliance or SDA [Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR]
    Solidarity [Lilja MOSESDOTTIR]
    Arctic Council, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, EU (candidate country), FAO, FATF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    chief of mission: Ambassador Gudmundur A. STEFANSSON
    chancery: House of Sweden, 2900 K Street NW #509, Washington, DC 20007
    telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
    FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
    consulate(s) general: New York
    chief of mission: Ambassador Luis E. ARREAGA
    embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
    mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
    telephone: [354] 595-22 00
    FAX: [354] 562-9118
    blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors represent three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the island's volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and ice fields of the island, and blue is for the surrounding ocean
    name: "Lofsongur" (Song of Praise)

    lyrics/music: Matthias JOCHUMSSON/Sveinbjorn SVEINBJORNSSON
    note: adopted 1944; the anthem, also known as "O, Gud vors lands" (O, God of Our Land), was originally written and performed in 1874

Economy ::Iceland

    Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system. Prior to the 2008 crisis, Iceland had achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income. The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 40% of export earnings, more than 12% of GDP, and employs nearly 5% of the work force. It remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, particularly within the fields of software production, biotechnology, and tourism. Abundant geothermal and hydropower sources have attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum sector, boosted economic growth, and sparked some interest from high-tech firms looking to establish data centers using cheap green energy, although the financial crisis has put several investment projects on hold. Much of Iceland's economic growth in recent years came as the result of a boom in domestic demand following the rapid expansion of the country's financial sector. Domestic banks expanded aggressively in foreign markets, and consumers and businesses borrowed heavily in foreign currencies, following the privatization of the banking sector in the early 2000s. Worsening global financial conditions throughout 2008 resulted in a sharp depreciation of the krona vis-a-vis other major currencies. The foreign exposure of Icelandic banks, whose loans and other assets totaled more than 10 times the country's GDP, became unsustainable. Iceland's three largest banks collapsed in late 2008. The country secured over $10 billion in loans from the IMF and other countries to stabilize its currency and financial sector, and to back government guarantees for foreign deposits in Icelandic banks. GDP fell 6.8% in 2009, and unemployment peaked at 9.4% in February 2009. GDP rose 2.7% in 2012 and unemployment declined to 5.6%. Since the collapse of Iceland's financial sector, government economic priorities have included: stabilizing the krona, implementing capital controls, reducing Iceland's high budget deficit, containing inflation, addressing high household debt, restructuring the financial sector, and diversifying the economy. Three new banks were established to take over the domestic assets of the collapsed banks. Two of them have foreign majority ownership, while the State holds a majority of the shares of the third. Iceland began making payments to the UK, the Netherlands, and other claimants in late 2011 following Iceland's Supreme Court ruling that upheld 2008 emergency legislation that gives priority to depositors for compensation from failed Icelandic banks. Iceland owes British and Dutch authorities approximately $5.5 billion for compensating British and Dutch citizens who lost deposits in Icesave when parent bank Landsbanki failed in 2008. Iceland began accession negotiations with the EU in July 2010; however, public support has dropped substantially because of concern about losing control over fishing resources and in reaction to worries over the ongoing Eurozone crisis.
    $13.04 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 147
    $12.83 billion (2011 est.)
    $12.47 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $13.65 billion (2012 est.)
    1.6% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 143
    2.9% (2011 est.)
    -4.1% (2010 est.)
    $39,900 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 28
    $39,400 (2011 est.)
    $38,600 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    9.7% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 127
    8.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    4.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 53.6%
    government consumption: 25.5%
    investment in fixed capital: 14.4%
    investment in inventories: 0.2%
    exports of goods and services: 59.2%
    imports of goods and services: -52.9%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 5.8%
    industry: 23.6%
    services: 70.7% (2012 est.)
    potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, chicken, pork, beef, dairy products; fish
    fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, hydropower, tourism
    -2.4% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 155
    180,100 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 175
    agriculture: 4.8%
    industry: 22.2%
    services: 73% (2008)
    6% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 61
    7.4% (2011 est.)
    note: 332,100 families (2011 est.)
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%
    28 (2006)
    country comparison to the world: 123
    25 (2005)
    revenues: $5.796 billion
    expenditures: $6.051 billion (2012 est.)
    42.5% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 34
    -1.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 83
    124.7% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 8
    128.4% of GDP (2011 est.)
    calendar year
    5.2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 151
    4% (2011 est.)
    5.4% (31 January 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 62
    5.75% (31 December 2010 est.)
    8.33% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 119
    7.7% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $3.562 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 109
    $4.053 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $12.57 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    $12.68 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
    $18.98 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 86
    $19.64 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $2.021 billion (31 December 2011)
    country comparison to the world: 98
    $1.996 billion (31 December 2010)
    $1.128 billion (31 December 2009)
    -$700 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 105
    -$953 million (2011 est.)
    $5.049 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 113
    $5.344 billion (2011 est.)
    fish and fish products 40%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite
    Netherlands 30.1%, Germany 12.9%, UK 9.8%, Norway 5%, US 4.5%, France 4.4% (2012)
    $4.443 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    $4.506 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles
    Norway 16.6%, US 10.1%, Germany 9.2%, China 7.1%, Brazil 6.6%, Netherlands 5.7%, Denmark 5.6%, UK 4.7% (2012)
    $4.192 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    $8.55 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $100.2 billion (31 December 2012)
    country comparison to the world: 47
    $110.8 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $9.2 billion (31 December 2008)
    $8.8 billion (31 December 2008)
    Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar -
    125.08 (2012 est.)
    115.95 (2011 est.)
    122.24 (2010 est.)
    123.64 (2009)
    85.619 (2008)

Energy ::Iceland

Communications ::Iceland

    191,100 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 127
    344,100 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 172
    general assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is modern and fully digitized, with satellite-earth stations, fiber-optic cables, and an extensive broadband network
    domestic: liberalization of the telecommunications sector beginning in the late 1990s has led to increased competition especially in the mobile services segment of the market
    international: country code - 354; the CANTAT-3 and FARICE-1 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Canada, the Faroe Islands, UK, Denmark, and Germany; a planned new section of the Hibernia-Atlantic submarine cable will provide additional connectivity to Canada, US, and Ireland; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Iceland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) (2011)
    state-owned public TV broadcaster operates 1 TV channel nationally; several privately owned TV stations broadcast nationally and roughly another half-dozen operate locally; about one-half the households utilize multi-channel cable or satellite TV services; state-owned public radio broadcaster operates 2 national networks and 4 regional stations; 2 privately owned radio stations operate nationally and another 15 provide more limited coverage (2007)
    369,969 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 56
    301,600 (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 129

Transportation ::Iceland

    96 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 59
    total: 7
    over 3,047 m: 1
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
    914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)
    total: 89
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
    914 to 1,523 m: 26
    under 914 m:
    60 (2013)
    total: 12,890 km
    country comparison to the world: 127
    paved/oiled gravel: 4,782 km (does not include urban roads)
    unpaved: 8,108 km (2012)
    total: 2
    country comparison to the world: 144
    by type: passenger/cargo 2
    registered in other countries: 19 (Antigua and Barbuda 10, Belize 1, Faroe Islands 4, Finland 1, Gibraltar 1, Norway 2) (2010)
    Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik

Military ::Iceland

Transnational Issues ::Iceland

    Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm; the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority filed a suit against Iceland, claiming the country violated the European Economic Area agreement in failing to pay minimum compensation to Icesave depositors
    stateless persons: 119 (2012)