The Role of Iceland in the International System as a Small State and the Issue of European Union Membership


  • YELIZ Kulali Galatasaray University



Iceland, European Union, Small power, Small state, Arctic


This study discusses the role of Iceland -which declared its independence from Denmark in 1944- in the international system and the causes that led the country to withdraw its European Union candidacy in 2015. This country, considered as one of the Scandinavian countries, has in fact its own unique structure. This unique structure has its roots in Iceland’s history, its determination about protecting the elements of national identity, geographical-climatic characteristics and economic factors such as the fishing industry. Iceland, which is the only NATO member without an army, has been through Cod Fish crisis’ with England, and the Ice-Save crisis with England and the Netherlands. The country, which had an important economic crisis in 2008, has shown a more positive attitude about EU as the government has also changed, however with the end of the crisis and another change of government, it has once again opted for a self-sufficient strategy. The country, which became member of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994 and of European Free Trade Area (EFTA) in 1970, aims to conduct political and economic relations through territorialisation or bilateral relations instead of participating to a big integration model or developing multilateral relations. Iceland’s primary foreign policy objectives throughout the new century seem to secure full control over its territory (land and waters), improve market access for its fisheries products and guarantee its defense. Although the governments varied from time to time, all political parties subscribed to the same goals though they differ on how to achieve them. Arctic issue seems to gain importance also for this country in 2010s