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  Introduction Back To Top

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. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.

  Geography Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)

Total renewable water resources:
170 cu km (2005)

Land boundaries:
0 km

Environment - international agreements:
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

temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers

Map references:
Arctic Region

Geographic coordinates:
65 00 N, 18 00 W

Natural resources:
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)

mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords

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

total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km

Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK

4,970 km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Kentucky

Irrigated land:

Environment - current issues:
water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Natural hazards:
earthquakes and volcanic activity

Land use:
arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
1.91 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
220 (2001 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.55 years
male: 78.43 years
female: 82.76 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%

Median age:
total: 34.8 years
male: 34.4 years
female: 35.3 years (2008 est.)

304,367 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
7.6% of GDP (2004)

Population growth rate:
0.783% (2008 est.)

Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken

Death rate:
6.81 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 3.25 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.39 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 18 years
male: 17 years
female: 19 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 21% (male 32,500/female 31,566)
15-64 years: 67% (male 103,231/female 100,545)
65 years and over: 12% (male 16,530/female 19,995) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
13.5 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Lutheran Church of Iceland 82.1%, Roman Catholic Church 2.4%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.3%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.6%, other Christian 2.8%, other religions 0.9%, unaffiliated 2.6%, other or unspecified 5.5% (2006 est.)

noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Hjalmar HANNESSON (as of 2 February 2009)
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
telephone: [354] 562-9100
FAX: [354] 562-9118

National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 June (1944)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
constitutional republic

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Icelandic Psychiatric Human Rights Group

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Albert JONSSON
chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-1704
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 12 May 2007 (next to be held by May 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - Independence Party 36.6%, Social Democratic Alliance 26.8%, Progressive Party 11.7%, Left-Green Movement 14.3%, Liberal Party 7.3%, other 3.3%; seats by party - Independence Party 25, Social Democratic Alliance 18, Progressive Party 7, Left-Green Alliance 9, Liberal Party 4

Legal system:
civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Flag description:
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)

1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lydveldid Island
local short form: Island

Political parties and leaders:
Independence Party or IP [Geir H. HAARDE]; Left-Green Movement or LGM [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party or LP [Gudjon KRISTJANSSON]; Progressive Party or PP; Social Democratic Alliance or SDA [Ingibjorg Solrun GISLADOTTIR] (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SDP, Women's List)

name: Reykjavik
geographic coordinates: 64 09 N, 21 57 W
time difference: UTC (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944; amended many times

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR (since 2 February 2009);
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections: president, largely a ceremonial post, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits); election last held 28 June 2004; the planned 2008 election was never held; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
2004 election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON 85.6%, Baldur AGUSTSSON 12.5%, Astthor MAGNUSSON 1.9%
note: the election for president planned for 28 June 2008 was never held because Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON had no challengers; he was sworn in on 1 August 2008; a coalition government of the Social Democractic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement, headed by Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR, assumed office 1 February 2009

Administrative divisions:
8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland

Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice); eight district courts (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice)

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
Netherlands 21.3%, Germany 13.3%, UK 13.2%, Ireland 7.7%, US 7.3%, Spain 4.6%, Japan 4.3% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
9.312 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
15.25% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
-$3.257 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$3.073 billion (2002)

Unemployment rate:
1.6% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
860.8 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$42,600 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
21.9% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$49.67 billion (31 December 2006)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.97 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$19.02 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
25 (2005)

Exchange rates:
Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar - 85.619 (2008 est.), 63.391 (2007), 70.195 (2006), 62.982 (2005), 70.192 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$6.64 billion (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
185,000 (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
US 13.7%, Germany 12.2%, Sweden 10.2%, Denmark 7.5%, Netherlands 5.7%, UK 5.4%, China 5.1%, Norway 4.6% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
13.4% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 26.5%
services: 68.5% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
17,450 bbl/day (2005)

$6.846 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
Icelandic krona (ISK)

Economy - overview:
Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system, including generous housing subsidies. With this system, Iceland has achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income. Government economic priorities have included stabilizing the krona, reducing the current account deficit, containing inflation, restructuring the financial sector, and diversifying the economy. The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 70% of export earnings and employs 6% of the work force. The economy 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, with new developments in software production, biotechnology, and tourism. Abundant geothermal power has attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum and hydropower sectors and boosted economic growth, 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-currency loans, following the privatization of the 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 negotiated over $10 billion in loans from the IMF and other countries to stabilize its currency and financial sector, and to guarantee foreign deposits in Icelandic banks. A protracted recession is expected in 2009 and 2010 with GDP likely to contract and unemployment likely to rise substantially. The collapse of the financial system has led to a major shift in opinion in favor of joining the EU and adopting the euro. Previous opposition to this move stemmed from Icelanders' concern about losing control of their fishing resources. Iceland's coalition government collapsed in January 2009 following protests over growing joblessness and losses to personal savings.

Economic aid - donor:
$6.7 million (2004)

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles

fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, tourism

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
19.29% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$15.05 billion (31 December 2006)

Electricity - production:
11.71 billion kWh (2007 est.)

$6.543 billion (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 6.6%
industry: 21.6%
services: 71.6% (2005)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.5 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
21,120 bbl/day (2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:

Public debt:
23% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$40.56 billion (31 December 2007)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Exports - commodities:
fish and fish products 70%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 0.1%
hydro: 82.5%
nuclear: 0%
other: 17.5% (geothermal) (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $7.582 billion
expenditures: $7.159 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
202,300 (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
186,700 (2007)

98,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 3, FM about 70 (including repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)

260,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
347,500 (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
14 (plus 156 repeaters) (1997)

Telephone system:
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)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
20 (2001)

Internet hosts:
263,980 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

Ports and terminals:
Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik

Merchant marine:
total: 2
by type: passenger/cargo 2
registered in other countries: 37 (Antigua and Barbuda 12, Bahamas 1, Belize 2, Denmark 2, Faroe Islands 1, Gibraltar 1, Malta 5, Marshall Islands 3, Norway 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)

total: 13,058 km
paved/oiled gravel: 4,397 km (does not include urban roads)
unpaved: 8,661 km (2007)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 94
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 28
under 914 m: 63 (2007)

99 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 74,896 (2008 est.)

Military - note:
Iceland has no standing military force; under a 1951 bilateral agreement - still valid - its defense was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik; however, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defense of Iceland remains a NATO commitment, in April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defense of Icelandic airspace (2008)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 62,342 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 2,393
female: 2,317 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
0% of GDP (2005 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm

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