Iceland’s population in 2015 was estimated to be around 332,000 people, making it the least populous country in Europe. The majority of Icelanders identify as Lutheran, with a sizeable minority of Catholics also present. The Icelandic economy is heavily reliant on fishing and tourism, with the former accounting for roughly one-third of the country’s GDP. Other exports include aluminum and hydropower. Iceland has strong trade ties with its Nordic neighbours, particularly Norway and Denmark, as well as other countries worldwide. In terms of politics, Iceland is a unitary parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. In 2015 Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was the Prime Minister after winning reelection in 2013. In foreign relations, Iceland is a member of both the United Nations and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and is actively involved in international affairs such as peacekeeping operations. Relations with its Nordic neighbours have been mostly positive but tensions remain between Iceland and Britain over fishing rights disputes. See ehealthfacts for Iceland in the year of 2005.
Iceland. According to COUNTRYAAH, Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland which is located in Northern Europe. The country’s economy continued to recover after the financial crisis. During the first quarter, GDP reached the size before the financial crisis seven years earlier. At the end of the year, unemployment fell to 2%, the lowest figure in seven years. The government decided to lift the capital controls introduced due to the crisis. It signaled a recovery following the collapse of the banking system and that Iceland was returning to the international financial market with free movement of capital. The government thus hoped to be able to raise Iceland’s credit rating and reduce its borrowing costs.
- Also see AbbreviationFinder.org for Iceland country abbreviations, including geography, history, economy and politics.
In February, it was reported that NATO’s radar system detected two Russian bombers that twice passed near Iceland’s southwest coast. It was the closest Icelandic contact with Russian military aircraft since the US military left its base in Keflavík in 2006.
In March, the government formally withdrew Iceland’s application for EU membership, declaring that it does not intend to resume the negotiations that were canceled in 2013. The message called for angry protests from the political opposition, which in a letter to the EU stated that the government had no legal basis for its decision. The letter to the EU was described by the government as treason. In Reykjavík, around 8,000 people gathered in protest against the government and demanded its resignation since the election promise to hold a referendum on EU membership broken. The four opposition parties in the Alliance demanded a referendum on whether Iceland would resume its negotiations with the EU.
A survey in March showed that for the first time, the Pirate Party had the largest public support. The party had almost doubled its support from previous investigation. For four months in a row, the Pirate Party was in the top, and in August the party in Gallup gained a full 36% against 24 for the Independence Party. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson of the Progress Party, who lagged behind in the opinion, warned the voters of the Pirate Party that he believed posed a danger to Iceland.
A survey on the confidence of politicians in April showed that only 9% of respondents saw Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson as an honest politician, while 47% had the image of Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the opposition Left-Green.
After unsuccessful negotiations with the public employers, a long-lasting strike broke out among nurses and professional groups in the academic union during the spring. In June, around a thousand strikers demonstrated outside the Reykjavík government office with demands for higher wages. Some explained that they were considering leaving the country unless pay conditions improved. In Alltinget, the government pushed through a forced strike to postpone the strike among nurses and academics a few summer weeks. The government cannot stop a strike but has the opportunity to push it forward.
On June 19, a thousand women gathered in front of the Parliament to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage in Iceland. The popular past president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, now 85, was one of the speakers.
A coalition of international animal welfare organizations in June, in a letter to President Barack Obama urged the United States to impose sanctions on Icelandic companies that have ties to the commercial whaling industry. The call came after reports that an Icelandic company was shipping 1,800 tonnes of election products to Japan in violation of an international ban on such trade.
In August, the Russian Federation imposed sanctions on Iceland because of its support for EU sanctions against the federation following its military involvement in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The Russian Federation, which stopped the import of food from Iceland, is a major importer of Icelandic capelin, herring and mackerel. Nearly half of all Icelandic mackerel were sold to the Russian Federation in 2013.
During the summer, Iceland was allocated a quota of 50 refugees of those the EU decided to redistribute between European countries. The decision prompted Icelanders to start a Facebook group for increased reception. Over 10,000 Icelanders supported it and many offered to welcome refugees in their homes or to volunteer and donate. It was proposed that Iceland would welcome 5,000 refugees. It was rejected by the government, which however decided to increase its reception to 100 refugees.
The government declared during the year that Iceland accepts the EU’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared with 1990. The Icelandic Environment Association criticized the government for simultaneously supporting plans for the construction of three high-purity silicon production plants, facilities such as it is estimated to emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and increase annual emissions by 20%.
When British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Iceland in October, it was decided to jointly explore the possibilities of connecting Iceland’s electricity grid to the British via a cable under the North Sea. Exports of Icelandic electricity to the UK have been discussed for several years, as there is a British electricity shortage. Icelandic artist Björk went out in a public protest against increased electricity production, as she and other environmental activists fear that large unspoilt natural areas are threatened by new hydroelectric plants. This is despite the fact that possible exports to the UK will be made possible by an expansion of power generation from hot sources, so-called thermal energy.