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  Transnational Issues

In general, information available as of 1 January 2003
was used in the preparation of The World Factbook 2003.

This page was last updated on 18 December, 2003

Map of Iceland

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   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 Rank Order
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 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
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 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 (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 1%
other: 70% (2001 est.)
forest and woodlands: 1%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 28%
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, Environmental Modification, Environmental Protection through Criminal Law, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Oil Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Persistent Organic Pollutants, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air 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 Rank Order
280,798 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 22.7% (male 32,902; female 30,952)
15-64 years: 65.4% (male 92,519; female 91,000)
65 years and over: 11.9% (male 14,973; female 18,452) (2003 est.)
Median age:
Definition Field Listing
total: 34 years
male: 33.2 years
female: 34.7 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.49% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
14.13 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
6.95 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
-2.26 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 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 (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 3.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 3.79 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total population: 79.8 years
male: 77.54 years
female: 82.22 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.98 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
220 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
less than 100 (2001 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 33.7%, Social Democratic Alliance 31.0%, Progressive Party 17.7%, Left-Green Alliance 8.8%, Liberal Party 7.4%; seats by party - Independence Party 22, Social Democratic Alliance 20, Progressive Party 12, Left-Green Alliance 5, Liberal Party 4
elections: last held 10 May 2003 (next to be held by May 2007)
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 [Gudjon KRISTJANSSON]; 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] 5629118
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 (including generous housing subsidies), 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 fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Government policies include 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 had been remarkably steady in 1996-2001 at 3%-5%, but could not be sustained in 2002 in an environment of global recession. Growth resumed in 2003, and inflation dropped back from 5% to 2%.
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $8.444 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
-0.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $30,200 (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 Rank Order
5.2% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
159,000 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture 5.1%, fishing and fish processing 11.8%, manufacturing 12.9%, construction 10.7%, other services 59.5% (1999)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
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 Rank Order
0.2% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.894 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
Definition Field Listing
fossil fuel: 0.1%
hydro: 82.5%
other: 17.5% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.341 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
16,300 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
15,470 bbl/day (2001)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
potatoes, green vegetables, chicken, pork, mutton; fish
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$2.3 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
Germany 18.5%, UK 17.5%, Netherlands 11.4%, US 10.9%, Spain 5.2%, Denmark 4.6%, Portugal 4.3%, Norway 4.2% (2002)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$2.1 billion (2002)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery and equipment, petroleum products; foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
US 10.9%, Germany 10.7%, Denmark 8.5%, Norway 8%, UK 7.5%, Netherlands 6%, Sweden 5.9% (2002)
Debt - external:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$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 - 91.66 (2002), 97.42 (2001), 78.62 (2000), 72.34 (1999), 70.96 (1998)
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
calendar year
   Communications    Iceland
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
196,984 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
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)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
14 (plus 156 low-power repeaters) (1997)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
Definition Field Listing
20 (2001)
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
220,000 (2002)
   Transportation    Iceland
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0 km
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 12,955 km
paved/oiled gravel: 3,863 km
unpaved: 9,092 km (2003)
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 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 3,500 GRT/5,000 DWT
ships by type: chemical tanker 1 (2002 est.)
Definition Field Listing
86 (2002)
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: 71,157 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 62,552 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
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 18 December, 2003

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