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Iceland maintains diplomatic and commercial relations with practically all nations, but its ties with Norway and other Nordic states, Germany, with the US, and with the other NATO nations are particularly close. Icelanders remain especially proud of the role Iceland played in hosting the historic 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavík, which set the stage for the end of the Cold War.

Iceland's principal historical international disputes involved disagreements over fishing rights. Conflict with the United Kingdom led to the so-called Cod Wars in 1952–56 because of the extension of the fishing zone from 3 to 4 nautical miles (6 to 7 km), 1958–61 because of extending the fishing zone to 12 nautical miles (22 km) in 1972–73 because of its further extension to 50 nautical miles (93 km) and in 1975–76 because of its extension to 200 nautical miles (370 km). Disagreements with Norway and Russia over fishing rights in the Barents Sea were successfully resolved in 2000. Certain environmentalists are concerned that Iceland left the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June 1992 in protest of an IWC decision to refuse to lift the ban on whaling, after the IWC Scientific Committee had determined that the taking of certain species could safely be resumed. That year, Iceland established a separate commission – along with Norway, Greenland and the Faroe Islands – for the conservation, management, and study of marine mammals. Since then, Iceland has resumed whaling for scientific purpose and has rejoined the IWC (in October 2002).

The Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes on 17 October 2006[1]. 25 nations delivered a formal diplomatic protest (called a "demarche") to the Icelandic government on 1 November concerning resumed commercial whaling. The protest was led by the United Kingdom and signed by nations including the United States, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Finland and Sweden[2].

Croatia was internationally recognized on January 15, 1992, by the European Union and the United Nations, at a moment when it didn't have full sovereignty over more than 1/3rd of its territory. The first country to recognize Croatia was Iceland on December 19, 1991.[3]

Iceland prides itself on being the first country to recognize the regained independence of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the USSR in 1990-1991. Similarly, it was the first country to recognize Montenegro's independence from its former union with Serbia.[4] Iceland also is the greatest Nordic contributor per capita to NATO-led troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, to police in Bosnia, and to Bosnia/Kosovo reconstruction, resettlement, and relief.

Through the various international organizations in which it participates, Iceland has also increased its involvement in Third World affairs, focusing on development assistance and trade.


Membership in international organizations

Iceland is a member of the following organizations: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; Western European Union (associate member); International Criminal Court; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; International Development Association; International Finance Corporation; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; European Economic Area; European Free Trade Association; Council of Europe; International Criminal Police Organization; and the United Nations, since 19 November 1946, and most of its specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Telecommunication Union, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Universal Postal Union, World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization and the International Whaling Commission. The Icelandic government currently finances two Programs of the United Nations University that are located in Iceland: the Geothermal Training Programme since 1979 and the Fisheries Training Programme since 1998.

International disputes



Iceland has an ongoing dispute with Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands) on the one hand and with the UK and Ireland on the other hand, concerning claims to the continental shelf in the Hatton–Rockall area of the North Atlantic under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982).[5] Iceland's claim covers virtually the entire area claimed by the other three countries, except for a small portion in the south-east corner of the Irish claim,[6] while the Faroes claim most of the area claimed by the UK and Ireland.[7] Negotiations continue between the four countries in the hope of making a joint proposal to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by May 2009.

Deposit insurance

Iceland and the European Union

Icelandic state flag at the Embassy in Helsinki.

Iceland applied for membership of the European Union on 17 July 2009. Iceland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), along with Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In 1992 Iceland and its EFTA partners (except for Switzerland, which rejected the agreement in a referendum) signed the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement with the European Union, which was designed to allow the EFTA countries to participate in the European Single Market without having to join the EU. The EFTA Secretariat in Brussels reported in 2005 that Iceland had adopted approximately 6.5% of EU regulations as a result of signing the EEA agreement.[8]

The outgoing coalition government of Iceland, consisting of the conservative Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) and the liberal Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn), was against joining the EU. The Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) is in favour of membership negotiations resulting in a deal which would then be submitted to a referendum. Following the 2007 election, the Independence Party and the Social Democratic Alliance entered into a coalition government.

The most contentious issue regarding possible EU membership for Iceland is the loss of control over natural resources, notably fishing grounds due to the Union's Common Fisheries Policy. Opponents also point to the (previous) good performance of the Icelandic economy, high growth and low unemployment, as a sign that there is no pressing need to join the EU. It is commonly argued that the membership of EEA already brings most of the potential benefits of an EU-membership without the costs. Then there are those who view the EEA membership as costly and the experience with the EEA as a negative one and therefore oppose EU-membership. Unwillingness to hand over a part of Iceland's sovereignty to a supranational organization is another source of opposition to EU membership, as in other European countries.

Proponents of EU membership largely rely on economic arguments: they view the euro as a solution to the dramatic exchange rate fluctuations of the króna, which have posed a challenge for many Icelandic export businesses. It is also pointed out that Iceland has Europe's highest grocery prices and completely opening the Icelandic market to EU products might result in lower prices. Foreign Minister Valgerður Sverrisdóttir has said in an interview with Iceland Radio that she seriously wishes to look into whether Iceland can join the euro without being a member of the 27-nation EU, according to Norwegian news NRK. Valgerður believes it is difficult to maintain an independent currency in a small economy on the open European market.

Former Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson, seems to be also in favour of joining the EU, and predicted on 8 February 2006 that the country will join the EU by 2015. He added that the decisive factor will be the future and the size of the eurozone, especially whether Denmark, Sweden and the UK have joined the euro or not.[9] His prediction, however, did not receive much support in Iceland; instead, it received much criticism, not the least from people within his own government.[10]

Although new Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde has not made any specific announcements on the matter since taking office, a speech he made as Foreign Minister in an official visit to Sweden in February 2006 made his position clear. In response to Halldór Ásgrímsson’s earlier prediction Geir Haarde stated that, "I don't share that point of view. Our policy is not to join in the foreseeable future. We are not even exploring membership." Further in a speech at a conference at the University of Iceland on 31 March 2006, Geir Haarde repeated what he had said on a number of occasions – that no special Icelandic interests demanded membership of the EU. In the same speech he further explained in detail why it would not be in the interest of Iceland to adopt the euro.[11]

An opinion poll on the matter conducted in August 2005 (after the rejection of the proposed European Constitution in France and the Netherlands) showed that 43% of respondents were in favour of EU membership while 37% were against, 20% were undecided. When asked whether Iceland should start membership negotiations, 55% were in favour while 30% were against. 54% of respondents were against adopting the euro while 37% were in favour.[12] A poll produced on 18 February 2006 (after the prime minister's prediction) by the newspaper Fréttablaðið found 42% opposed to applying for EU membership while 34% were in favour.[13] One in February 2008 showed 55.1% supportive and 44.9% against.[14]

Following a coalition government between the Independence Party and the pro-EU Alliance a special commission to weigh the pros and cons of European Union membership was set up.[15]

Agreed Minute

The Agreed Minute was a statute governing the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iceland. The Agreed Minute was last renegotiated in 2001. At the time, the U.S. Air Force committed itself to maintaining four to six interceptors at the Keflavík base, supported by a helicopter rescue squad. The Air Force, in order to cut costs, announced plans to remove the four remaining jets in 2003. The removal was then delayed to address Icelandic demands for continued presence of the jets. After an unfruitful series of negotiations and two reshuffles of the Icelandic government the issue lay dormant until early 2006 when the U.S. Air Force issued an official statement that withdrawal of the aircraft was already being prepared. U.S. officials have since then argued that Iceland is in no need of a military presence.


Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Austria 1928
 Czech Republic 1993-01-01 See Czech Republic – Iceland relations
  • The Czech Republic is represented in Iceland through an honorary consulate in Reykjavík.
  • Iceland is represented in the Czech Republic through its embassy in Vienna (Austria) and through an honorary consulate in Prague.
 Denmark See Denmark–Iceland relations

Iceland was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark from 1814 to 1918 and a separate kingdom in a personal union with Denmark until 1944, when Iceland declared independence. Denmark has an embassy in Reykjavík. Iceland has an embassy in Copenhagen.

 Estonia See Foreign relations of Estonia
 Finland See Foreign relations of Finland
 France See Foreign relations of France
 Germany See Germany–Iceland relations
 Greece See Greek–Icelandic relations
  • Greece is represented in Iceland through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Reykjavik. *Iceland is represented in Greece through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Athens.
 Italy 1945
 Latvia 1991-08-22 See Iceland–Latvia relations
  • Iceland was the first country to recognise the independence of Latvia in August 1991.
  • Iceland is represented in Latvia through its embassy in Helsinki (Finland).
  • Latvia is represented in Iceland through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and an honorary consulate in Reykjavik.
 Lithuania 1991-08-05
 Russia See Iceland–Russia relations
  • Russia has an embassy in Reykjavík.
  • Iceland has an embassy in Moscow, and two honorary consulates in Murmansk and Saint Petersburg.
  • Both countries have close ties in financing, which has strengthened the relations between the two.[23] Iceland also called Russia as it's "new friend" due to saving its country from an economic crisis.[24]
 Ukraine 1992
 United Kingdom See Iceland – United Kingdom relations

Rest of world

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Canada See Foreign relations of Canada
 India See Iceland–India relations

Historically, Indo-Icelandic bilateral relations have been friendly but lacked substantive content.[27]

 Japan 1956
 Mexico 1960 See Iceland–Mexico relations
 People's Republic of China See People's Republic of China – Iceland relations
  • In May 1972, China assigned the first resident ambassador to Iceland.
  • In January 1995, Iceland set up its embassy in Beijing and assigned its first resident ambassador to China.
  • In December 1995, China resumed the practice of sending resident ambassadors to Iceland (between 1983 and 1995, the Chinese ambassador to Copenhagen, Denmark was also accredited to Iceland).
 South Korea See Iceland-South Korea relations

Iceland–South Korea relations are primarily based on cooperation over maritime issues, such as whaling and bottom trawling, and on bi-lateral trade in technology and fish products, although there are various other ways in which the two countries interact.

 United States See Iceland – United States relations

Iceland and the U.S. are NATO allies. The United States of America prides itself on being the first country to recognize the regained independence of Iceland.

See also

External links

Foreign representations in Iceland


  1. ^ "Iceland resumes commercial whaling". Greenpeace International. Retrieved 2006-10-17. 
  2. ^ "Iceland rapped over whale hunting". BBC. 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  3. ^ "Važniji datumi iz povijesti saborovanja". Hrvatski Sabor. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  4. ^ The Government of Montenegro
  5. ^ Ross, John (27 September 2007). "Why a barren rock in the Atlantic is the focus of an international battle of wills". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 September 2007. 
  6. ^ Regulation 196/1985. (Icelandic)
  7. ^ Source: Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  8. ^ EU News From Iceland: Iceland only adopting 6,5 percent of EU laws through the EEA agreement
  9. ^ EUobserver / Iceland in EU by 2015, prime minister says
  10. ^ EU News From Iceland: Prime Minister Ásgrímsson as good as alone in his predictions
  11. ^
  12. ^ Alþjóðlegt samstarf | Samtök iðnaðarins - íslenskur iðnaður
  13. ^ EUobserver / Iceland cool on EU membership
  14. ^ "Icelanders change their tune on EU membership: poll". Frettabladid. Februari 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  15. ^ Iceland Mulls EU Membership | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 24.05.2007
  16. ^ Icelandic embassy in Vienna
  17. ^ Icelandic embassy in London (also accredited to Ireland)
  18. ^ Irish embassy in Copenhagen (also accredited to Iceland)
  19. ^ Icelandic embassy in Paris (also accredited to Italy)
  20. ^ Italian embassy in Oslo (also accredited to Iceland)
  21. ^ Icelandic embassy in Helsinki (also accredited to Lithuania)
  22. ^ Lithuanian embassy in Copenhagen (also accredited to Iceland)
  23. ^ "Iceland seeks Russian comfort". The Moscow News. Retrieved 2009-06-26. "Russia received a similar official request late on Tuesday and the country's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was quoted by Interfax as saying: "We will consider it. Iceland has a reputation for strict budget discipline and has a high credit rating. We're looking favorably at the request." Negotiations on the loan are supposed to start on October 14." 
  24. ^ "Iceland nationalises bank and seeks Russian loan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-06-26. "Prime Minister Geir Haarde rushed emergency measures through the Nordic nation's parliament to nationalise Landsbanki and give the country's largest bank, Kaupthing, a £400m loan to bolster its balance sheet." 
  25. ^ Icelandic embassy in Helsinki (also accredited to Ukraine)
  26. ^ Ukrainian embassy in Helsinki (also accredited to Iceland)
  27. ^ "My background helps me: Kalam". The Hindu. 2005-05-30. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  28. ^ Iceland embassy in Tokyo
  29. ^ "Iceland and Mexico". Iceland. Retrieved 2009-06-20. "Iceland and Mexico established diplomatic relations in 1960. Since then the Icelandic Embassy in Washington D.C. has also served as the Icelandic Embassy for Mexico. The Mexican Embassy in Denmark serves as the Mexican Embassy to Iceland." 


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