Everything About Iceland

   Introduction   Geography   People   Government   Economy   Communications   Transportation   Military   Transnational Issues  

Iceland    Introduction Top of Page
Background: 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 wide spread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
Iceland    Geography Top of Page
Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total:  103,000 sq km

land:  100,250 sq km

water:  2,750 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 4,988 km
Maritime claims: continental shelf:  200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin

exclusive economic zone:  200 NM

territorial sea:  12 NM
Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Terrain: mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes: lowest point:  Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point:  Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m
Natural resources: fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use: arable land:  0%

permanent crops:  0%

permanent pastures:  23%

forests and woodland:  1%

other:  76% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues: water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements: party to:  Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:  Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: 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



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Population: 277,906 (July 2001 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years:  23.18% (male 33,238; female 31,191)

15-64 years:  65.01% (male 91,095; female 89,583)

65 years and over:  11.81% (male 14,681; female 18,118) (2001 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.54% (2001 est.)
Birth rate: 14.62 births/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Death rate: 6.89 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth:  1.08 male(s)/female

under 15 years:  1.07 male(s)/female

15-64 years:  1.02 male(s)/female

65 years and over:  0.81 male(s)/female

total population:  1 male(s)/female (2001 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 3.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population:  79.52 years

male:  77.31 years

female:  81.92 years (2001 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.01 children born/woman (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.14% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 200 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun:  Icelander(s)

adjective:  Icelandic
Ethnic groups: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran 93%, other Protestant and Roman Catholic, none (1997)
Languages: Icelandic
Literacy: definition:  age 15 and over can read and write

total population:  99.9% (1997 est.)

male:  NA%

female:  NA%
Iceland    Government Top of Page
Country name: conventional long form:  Republic of Iceland

conventional short form:  Iceland

local long form:  Lyoveldio Island

local short form:  Island
Government type: constitutional republic
Capital: Reykjavik
Administrative divisions: 23 counties (syslar, singular - sysla) and 14 independent towns* (kaupstadhir, singular - kaupstadhur); Akranes*, Akureyri*, Arnessysla, Austur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Austur-Hunavatnssysla, Austur-Skaftafellssysla, Borgarfjardharsysla, Dalasysla, Eyjafjardharsysla, Gullbringusysla, Hafnarfjordhur*, Husavik*, Isafjordhur*, Keflavik*, Kjosarsysla, Kopavogur*, Myrasysla, Neskaupstadhur*, Nordhur-Isafjardharsysla, Nordhur-Mulasys-la, Nordhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Olafsfjordhur*, Rangarvallasysla, Reykjavik*, Saudharkrokur*, Seydhisfjordhur*, Siglufjordhur*, Skagafjardharsysla, Snaefellsnes-og Hnappadalssysla, Strandasysla, Sudhur-Mulasysla, Sudhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Vesttmannaeyjar*, Vestur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Vestur-Hunavatnssysla, Vestur-Isafjardharsysla, Vestur-Skaftafellssysla

note:  there may be four other counties
Independence: 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
National holiday: Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
Constitution: 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944
Legal system: civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state:  President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)

head of government:  Prime Minister David ODDSSON (since 30 April 1991)

cabinet:  Cabinet appointed by the prime minister and approved by Parliament

elections:  president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 29 June 1996 (next to be held NA June 2004); President GRIMSSON ran unopposed in June 2000 so there were no elections; prime minister appointed by the president

election results:  Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; President GRIMSSON ran unopposed
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

elections:  last held on 8 May 1999 (next to be held by April 2003)

election results:  percent of vote by party - Independence Party 40.7%, The Alliance (PA, People's Party, Women's List) 26.8%, Progressive Party 18.4%, Left-Green Alliance 9.1%, Liberal Party 4.2%; seats by party - Independence Party 26, The Alliance 17, Progressive Party 12, Left-Green Alliance 6, Liberal Party 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by the president)
Political parties and leaders: Independence Party (conservative) or IP [David ODDSSON]; Left-Green Alliance [Steinsvimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party [Sverrir HERMANNSSON]; People's Party (Social Democratic Party) or SDP [Sighvatyr BJORGIVINSSON]; Progressive Party (liberal) or PP [Halldor ASGRIMSSON]; The Alliance (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SVP, People's Movement, Women's List) [Ossur SKARPHEDINSSON]; Women's List or WL [Kristin ASTGEIRSDOTTIR]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EFTA, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNU, UPU, WEU (associate), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Jon-Baldvin HANNIBALSSON

chancery:  Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

telephone:  [1] (202) 265-6653

FAX:  [1] (202) 265-6656

consulate(s) general:  New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission:  Ambassador Barbara J. GRIFFITHS

embassy:  Laufasvegur 21, Reykjavik

mailing address:  US Embassy, PSC 1003, Box 40, FPO AE 09728-0340

telephone:  [354] 5629100

FAX:  [354] 5629118
Flag description: blue with a red cross outlined in white that extends 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)
Iceland    Economy Top of Page
Economy - overview: Iceland's Scandinavian-type economy is basically capitalistic, yet with an extensive welfare system, low unemployment, and remarkably even distribution of income. In the absence of other natural resources (except for abundant hydrothermal and geothermal power), the economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 70% of export earnings and employs 12% of the work force. The economy remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to drops in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. The center-right government plans to continue its policies of reducing the budget and current account deficits, limiting foreign borrowing, containing inflation, revising agricultural and fishing policies, diversifying the economy, and privatizing state-owned industries. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of Icelanders' concern about losing control over their fishing resources. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, and new developments in software production, biotechnology, and financial services are taking place. The tourism sector is also expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale watching. Growth has been remarkably steady over the past five years at 4%-5%.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $6.85 billion (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.3% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $24,800 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture:  15% (includes fishing 13%)

industry:  21%

services:  64% (1999 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%:  NA%

highest 10%:  NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.5% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 159,000 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 5.1%, fishing and fish processing 11.8%, manufacturing 12.9%, construction 10.7%, other services 59.5% (1999)
Unemployment rate: 2.7% (January 2001)
Budget: revenues:  $3.5 billion

expenditures:  $3.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $467 million (1999)
Industries: fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production, geothermal power; tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 1.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production: 7.069 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel:  0.07%

hydro:  84.64%

nuclear:  0%

other:  15.29% (1999)
Electricity - consumption: 6.574 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1999)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1999)
Agriculture - products: potatoes, turnips; cattle, sheep; fish
Exports: $2 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: fish and fish products 70%, animal products, aluminum, diatomite, ferrosilicon
Exports - partners: EU 64% (UK 20%, Germany 13%, France 5%, Denmark 5%), US 15%, Japan 5% (1999)
Imports: $2.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, petroleum products; foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners: EU 56% (Germany 12%, UK 9%, Denmark 8%, Sweden 6%), US 11%, Norway 10% (1999)
Debt - external: $2.6 billion (1999)
Economic aid - donor: $NA
Currency: Icelandic krona (ISK)
Currency code: ISK
Exchange rates: Icelandic kronur per US dollar - 84.810 (January 2001), 78.676 (2000), 72.335 (1999), 70.958 (1998), 70.904 (1997), 66.500 (1996)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Iceland    Communications Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use: 168,000 (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 65,746 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment:  adequate domestic service

domestic:  the trunk network consists of coaxial and fiber-optic cables and microwave radio relay links

international:  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)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM about 70 (including repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 260,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 14 (plus 156 low-power repeaters) (1997)
Televisions: 98,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .is
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7 (2000)
Internet users: 144,000 (2000)
Iceland    Transportation Top of Page
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total:  12,691 km

paved:  3,262 km

unpaved:  9,429 km (1999)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Akureyri, Hornafjordur, Isafjordhur, Keflavik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydhisfjordhur, Straumsvik, Vestmannaeyjar
Merchant marine: total:  2 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 3,435 GRT/4,538 DWT

ships by type:  chemical tanker 1, petroleum tanker 1 (2000 est.)
Airports: 87 (2000 est.)
Airports - with paved runways: total:  12

over 3,047 m:  1

1,524 to 2,437 m:  4

914 to 1,523 m:  7 (2000 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total:  75

1,524 to 2,437 m:  3

914 to 1,523 m:  20

under 914 m:  52 (2000 est.)
Iceland    Military Top of Page
Military branches: no regular armed forces; Police, Coast Guard; note - Iceland's defense is provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik
Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49:  71,241 (2001 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49:  62,704 (2001 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $0
Military - note: defense is provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik
Iceland    Transnational Issues Top of Page
Disputes - international: Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark and the UK (Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area); dispute with Denmark over the Faroe Islands fisheries median line boundary within 200 NM; disputes with Denmark, the UK, and Ireland over the Faroe Islands continental shelf boundary outside 200 NM