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  Transnational Issues

In general, information available as of 1 January 2002
was used in the preparation of The World Factbook 2002.

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003

Map of Iceland

Legend: Definition Definition Field Listing Field Listing
   Introduction    Iceland
Definition Field Listing
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, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
   Geography    Iceland
Definition Field Listing
Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Arctic Region
Definition Field Listing
total: 103,000 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
0 km
Definition Field Listing
4,988 km
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Definition Field Listing
temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Definition Field Listing
mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 0.06%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.94% (23% permanent pastures) (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
NA sq km
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements:
Definition Field Listing
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, 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, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
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    Iceland
Definition Field Listing
279,384 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 23% (male 33,189; female 31,155)
15-64 years: 65.1% (male 91,704; female 90,199)
65 years and over: 11.9% (male 14,828; female 18,309) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.52% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing
14.37 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing
6.93 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
-2.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
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 (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing
3.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing
total population: 79.66 years
female: 82.07 years (2002 est.)
male: 77.42 years
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing
1.99 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.14% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing
200 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing
less than 100 (1999 est.)
Definition Field Listing
noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups:
Definition Field Listing
homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Definition Field Listing
Evangelical Lutheran 87.1%, other Protestant 4.1%, Roman Catholic 1.7%, other 7.1% (2002)
Definition Field Listing
Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
Definition Field Listing
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.9% (1997 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%
   Government    Iceland
Country name:
Definition Field Listing
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local short form: Island
local long form: Lydhveldidh Island
Government type:
Definition Field Listing
constitutional republic
Definition Field Listing
Administrative divisions:
Definition Field Listing
23 counties (syslur, 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
Definition Field Listing
1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
National holiday:
Definition Field Listing
Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
Definition Field Listing
16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944
Legal system:
Definition Field Listing
civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Definition Field Listing
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
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
election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON ran unopposed in 2000 and was reelected
elections: president, which is largely a ceremonial post, 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
Legislative branch:
Definition Field Listing
unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party - Independence Party 40.7%, Social Democratic Alliance (PA, Social Democratic 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, Social Democratic Alliance 17, Progressive Party 12, Left-Green Alliance 6, Liberal Party 2
elections: last held 8 May 1999 (next to be held by April 2003)
Judicial branch:
Definition Field Listing
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)
Political parties and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
Independence Party or IP [David ODDSSON]; Left-Green Alliance or LGP [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party or LP [Sverrir HERMANNSSON]; Progressive Party or PP [Halldor ASGRIMSSON]; Social Democratic Alliance (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SDP, Women's List)or SDA [Ossur SKARPHEDINSSON]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Sighvatur BJORGVINSSON]; Women's List or WL [Kristin ASTGEIRSDOTTIR]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
International organization participation:
Definition Field Listing
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador Helgi AGUSTSSON
chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-1704
consulate(s) general: New York
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador James I. GADSDEN
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Embassy, PSC 1003, Box 40, FPO AE 09728-0340
telephone: [354] 5629100
FAX: [354] 5629139
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
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)
   Economy    Iceland
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
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, providing 70% of export earnings and employing 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. Consumption, investment, and exports should recover moderately in 2003.
Definition Field Listing
purchasing power parity - $7.7 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
-0.7% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
Definition Field Listing
purchasing power parity - $27,100 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 14% (includes fishing 12%)
industry: 21%
services: 65% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Definition Field Listing
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
Definition Field Listing
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Definition Field Listing
5% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing
159,000 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture 5%, fishing and fish processing 12%, manufacturing 13%, construction 11%, other services 60% (1999)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing
2.8% (2002 est.)
Definition Field Listing
revenues: $3.5 billion
expenditures: $3.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $467 million (1999)
Definition Field Listing
fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production, geothermal power; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.2% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing
7.549 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
Definition Field Listing
fossil fuel: 0%
hydro: 83%
other: 17% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing
7.02 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
potatoes, turnips; cattle, sheep; fish
Definition Field Listing
$2 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
fish and fish products 70%, animal products, aluminum, diatomite, ferrosilicon
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
UK 18.2%, Germany 14.9%, Netherlands 10.9, US 10.3%, Portugal 5.5%, Spain 5.4%, Norway 5.3% (2001)
Definition Field Listing
$2 billion (2002)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery and equipment, petroleum products; foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Germany 12.2%, US 11.1%, Denmark 8.6%, Norway 7.8%, UK 7.5%, Netherlands 6.6% (2001)
Debt - external:
Definition Field Listing
$2.6 billion (1999)
Economic aid - donor:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing
Icelandic krona (ISK)
Currency code:
Definition Field Listing
Exchange rates:
Definition Field Listing
Icelandic kronur per US dollar - 102.430 (January 2002), 97.425 (2001), 78.616 (2000), 72.335 (1999), 70.958 (1998), 70.904 (1997)
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
calendar year
   Communications    Iceland
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing
196,984 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing
248,131 (221,231 GSM, 26,900 NMT) (2001)
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
general assessment: extensive 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:
Definition Field Listing
AM 3, FM about 70 (including repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
Definition Field Listing
260,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
14 (plus 156 low-power repeaters) (1997)
Definition Field Listing
98,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
Definition Field Listing
20 (2001)
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing
220,000 (2002)
   Transportation    Iceland
Definition Field Listing
0 km
Definition Field Listing
total: 12,691 km
paved: 3,262 km
unpaved: 9,429 km (1999)
Definition Field Listing
Ports and harbors:
Definition Field Listing
Akureyri, Hornafjordhur, Isafjordhur, Keflavik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydhisfjordhur, Straumsvik, Vesttmannaeyjar
Merchant marine:
Definition Field Listing
total: 1 ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,816 GRT/2,500 DWT
ships by type: chemical tanker 1 (2002 est.)
Definition Field Listing
86 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 13
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 73
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 21
under 914 m: 49 (2002)
   Military    Iceland
Military branches:
Definition Field Listing
no regular armed forces; Police, Coast Guard
Military manpower - availability:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 71,142 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 62,556 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Definition Field Listing
Military - note:
Definition Field Listing
defense is provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik
   Transnational Issues    Iceland
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Iceland, 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

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003

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