We are a small island nation found in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans that many tour via an Iceland campervan rental. It’s a Nordic, European country with many attractions that has one of the lowest population densities in Europe. Its hiking-ideal location causes many to wonder, is Iceland in the EU? We’ll talk about this topic at length. The population size is over 360,000 people and the total area is 103,000 square km (40,000 sq mi).
Is Iceland in the EU?
The nation, known for its Northern Lights, is not particularly diverse as 89 percent is Icelandic and 5 percent is Polish. Iceland is located in Europe but has many links to Scandinavian countries like Norway and Denmark. So is Iceland a Scandinavian country? Is it in the European Union?
Is Iceland Part of the European Union?
The question of the hour: Is Iceland a part of the European Union? Answer: Iceland is not a member of the European Union. But Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (or EEA) and benefits from the EEA agreement. This allows Iceland to participate in the European Union's free trade market. The EEA agreement includes the EU and three non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein.
Iceland has been a signatory for groups like the European Free Trade Association. Iceland participates in many groups with the EU by being a non-voting member to agencies. These agencies focus on research, education, and environment programs. Iceland is also a member of the Nordic Passport Union giving Iceland the same benefits in the Schengen Agreement. EU citizens and Icelanders can operate with the mobility of having an open border.
Essentially, there is no major benefit to joining the EU. Iceland is already experiencing the bonus of said membership with the European Economic Area and the EEA Agreement. They currently have 70 to 80 percent of their exports and imports with EU countries. Iceland also helps encourage peace, and consults on foreign affairs.
Iceland European Union Membership
The pressing question is: should Iceland join the European Union? There has been a longstanding discussion over the advantages of an Iceland European Union membership. Iceland chooses to function independently of the EU and use Icelandic Krona as their currency (and many usecredit cards. There are several variables that discourage Iceland from joining the EU. The main reason is to maintain control of the fishing industry and their fishing boundaries. Fishing is an integral part of their traditions and has served as an economic lifeline since the first settlers. If Iceland decided to join the EU they could possibly lose control of their fishing industry.
There was a border conflict with a UK fishing vessel that moved into Iceland’s territory. After this incident, Icelanders became even firmer in their resolve to maintain their lifestyle. Iceland has also made other alliances that have military, economic, and diplomatic advantages. Thus making Iceland less likely to rely on EU countries.
In addition, both Nordic and Scandinavian countries are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In 1960, the founding members were Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. EFTA provides protection for their economic development.
History of the European Union
The European Union had 28 member state countries. However, as of 31 January 2020 the United Kingdom officially left the EU and now there are only 27 member states. The EU was formed to help each country grow economically and avoid disputes. The first iteration of the union was called the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958. It started out with six countries, which were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The EU membership has many benefits such as participating in a powerful single market for European free trade.
The original intention of the EU was to foster economic advancement but now it has become more nuanced. It focuses on policy in areas like environment, climate, health, justice, security, and migration. For instance, the EU provides aid for victims of disaster whether they are man-made or naturally occurring. Thus, in 1993 the European Economic Community became simply the European Union to be more encompassing of their goals.
The EU has provided each member of the European Union access to a unified currency, economic support, and travel mobility. The EU has maintained peace, increased quality of living, and established the euro as a powerful currency. 19 countries use the euro as their main currency. The EU is the largest and most influential trade block in the world. It’s the largest exporter and importer of goods. This is very beneficial to EU members because they can engage in the free movement of goods.
EU citizens have great mobility to travel to other EU countries because of the Schengen Agreement. The borders are open and everyone can move to another country to live, study, work, or even retire. The procedure to hire, pay taxes, and earn social security is streamlined for all EU citizens. When they move the government of that country will simply roll them into their system.
What Kind of Government Does Iceland Have?
Icelandic parliament governs Iceland. The Head of State is the President and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government in a multiple party structure. The Icelandic government was first founded in 930AD in Thingvellir Park, making the Icelandic Parliament the oldest assembly democracy. The power structure is organized into three areas of government. The government controls the executive power. Icelandic Law and legislative power is upheld in the government and parliament. Parliament is called the Althingi. The judiciary branch is separate from the first two powers. The Supreme Court and District courts hold the judicial power.
The Prime Minister presides over all the weekly cabinet meetings held twice a week. All of the Government Ministers need to be in attendance. During these meetings, cabinet members (Government Ministers) would discuss matters involving bills and proposals. These would be then sent to the Althingi for approval.
Every four years all 63 members of the Althingi need to be replaced by a secret ballot vote. If you have voting rights you can run for the Althingi but you cannot be the President or a Supreme Court judge. Then the President chooses the leader of the political party with the most seats in the Althingi to create a cabinet. They will remain in office for one term of four years until the next election. The President has one term of four years and is elected by popular vote. However, the President has no term limits and can be reelected many times.
What is the Independence Party?
The largest party with 16 seats in the Althingi is the Independence Party. This political party was founded in 1929 when two prominent groups joined to create a new party. The two groups were the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. They seemed to have juxtaposed agendas but they now support both the working fishermen and rich affluent members of society.
Therefore, the Independence Party is deeply opposed to becoming members of the European Union. They want to maintain financial control over the fishing industry and joining the EU could threaten their control. But they do support Icelandic membership to organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EEA agreement.
Is Iceland a Nordic or Scandinavian Nation?
It has been clearly established that the Land of Fire and Ice is not part of the European Union despite being in Europe. However, there is still confusion over if Iceland can be considered either Nordic or Scandinavian. The term Scandinavian will always include Sweden, Denmark and Norway. But there are times when Finland and Iceland are also included.
So the question remains, is Iceland a Scandinavian country? The answer to this question varies and is highly dependent on the individuals you’re asking. Icelanders are very proud of their heritage and share many cultural traits with Scandinavians. These traits include language, history, and even religion. Most of the first settlers in Iceland came directly from Norway, which naturally caused the dissemination of the Scandinavian culture. Denmark even presided over Iceland for 500 years. Therefore, if you ask certain Icelanders they would claim their Scandinavian heritage loudly. They would even be offended by the suggestion they are not Scandinavian.
Fortunately, the Nordic distinction is quite clear. The Nordic Council includes the three Scandinavian countries, which are Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The council also officially includes Iceland, Finland, and three autonomous regions called Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland Islands.
Overall, Iceland is steadfast in maintaining their independence from the European Union. They want to maintain their cultural heritage by protecting their way of life. This also includes embracing their connection to Scandinavia.