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Iceland

(last updated: 25.06.2018)

Iceland was the first state to recognise the restored Republic of Estonia in 1991. "Iceland has a greater role in changing the world in 1991 than an icebreaker, because Iceland reminded everyone of lost values,” said President Lennart Meri during his visit to the Republic of Iceland in September 1999. In acknowledgement this recognition, the square in front of the Estonian Foreign Ministry was named Islandi väljak (Iceland Square) in August 1998 and as of October 1999, the address of the Ministry is 1 Iceland Square. In August 2006, the Icelandic and Estonian prime ministers opened a memorial plaque dedicated to Iceland on the façade of the Foreign Ministry.

Iceland first extended de jure recognition to the Baltic States on 30 January 1922, but as Iceland`s diplomatic relations were carried out via Denmark the minimal official relations between the countries were limited to Icelandic representative in Denmark Sveinn Björnsson (1920-1940), later the first President of Iceland.

In May 1934, Tomas Tomasson was appointed as Estonia’s first Honorary Consul in Reykjavik, in which capacity he served until 1958 when the consulate was eventually closed Estonia and Iceland's political contacts were disrupted in 1940 for 51 years. An Icelandic consulate and mutual embassies were never opened.

On 11 February 1991, Iceland's Parliament, Althingi, adopted a resolution that expressed support for the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and laid emphasis on the attaining of it by way of peaceful negotiations. Iceland re-recognised Estonia's independence on 22 August 1991.

On 26 August 1991, Estonia's Foreign Minister Lennart Meri and Iceland’s Foreign Minister Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson signed a joint declaration on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

Iceland’s current Ambassador to Estonia Kristίn Aðalbjörg Árnadóttir presented her credentials to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 15 January 2014. The ambassador resides in Helsinki. Estonian Ambassador to Iceland Janne Jõesaar-Ruusalu presented his credentials to President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson on 14 February 2017, she resides in Oslo.

Estonia's Honorary Consul General in Iceland is Jón Sigurðarson. Iceland's Honorary Consul in Estonia is Helen Tälli.

There is also an Estonian-Icelandic parliamentary group in Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu), it haas 6 members and the chairman is Artur Talvik.

 

Visits

To Iceland
November 2017 President Kersti Kaljulaid
June 2017 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser
September 2016 Minister of Foreign Affairs Jürgen Ligi
October 2015 Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas
April 2013 Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet
December 2012 Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet
June 2010 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on state visit
August 2009 Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet at the meeting of the NB8 foreign ministers
February 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet
October 2005 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
June 2005 President of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma
May 2004 President Arnold Rüütel
August 2001 Minister of Foreign Affairs Toomas Hendrik Ilves
May 2001 Prime Minister Mart Laar
To Estonia
June 2018 President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson on an official visit and at the Estonia 100 celebration in Tartu, at the Baltic Students' Song and Dance Festival "Gaudeamus"
March 2017 President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson
June 2015 Minister of Culture Illugi Gunnarson
September 2014 Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson
March 2014 Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson
March 2013 Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson
August 2011 President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
August 2011 Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson
October 2010 Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson
September 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir at the meeting of the NB8 foreign ministers
May 2008 Minister of Foreign Affairs Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir
August 2006 Prime Minister Geir Hilmar Haarde
March 2006 President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson at the funeral of President Lennart Meri
August 2000 Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson

 

Bilateral relations

"We are speaking a common language – it is the language of democracy and self-determination," said Lennart Meri in his speech to Iceland’s Parliament in September 1999.

Relations between Estonia and Iceland are very good; common positions are held on the main issues of international politics. Co-operating as small nations within various international formats has been of the utmost importance.

On 21 August 2011, Iceland Day was celebrated in Tallinn as a thank-you to Iceland for its brave decision 20 years ago to be the first country to recognise Estonia’s restored independence. In connection with Iceland Day President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson visited Estonia.

Nordic-Baltic co-operation (NB8) – Iceland was the chairman of NB8 in 2009. The regular meeting of NB8 foreign ministers and political directors took place in Reykjavik from 20-21 August 2009 where Foreign Minister Urmas Paet particapated. In 2014, a meeting of NB8+V4 was held in Estonia and it was attended by Icelandic Prime Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.

In 2014, a meeting of NB8+V4 was held in Estonia and it was attended by Icelandic Prime Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.

In 2016-2017, Iceland also held the presidency of Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). The priorities of the Icelandic Presidency were children, equality, democracy and rights of women. These priorities will therefore underpin the CBSS strategies for a stronger regional identity, a prosperous & sustainable region and a safe & secure region.

Iceland, one of the founding members of NATO in 1949, consistently supported the endeavours of the Baltic nations, including Estonia, to join NATO. Within the framework of NATO air security co-operation, Estonia participated in the air security mission to Iceland in 2009.

In the context of the European Union, Estonia’s relations with Iceland are regulated by the Agreement on the European Economic Area and Iceland’s membership in the EFTA.

In 2006, Estonia and Island signed a co-operation memorandum for the implementation of their first joint development co-operation project.

Within the framework of the project, training for instructors of the Georgian Interior Ministry Academy and police officers was carried out. In addition to the Estonian and Icelandic foreign ministries, the Finnish Interior Ministry and UN Observer Mission in Georgia were also partners. Currently Iceland’s participation in the project has ended.

 

Agreements

The following major agreements have been concluded between Estonia and Iceland:

  • Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and for the Prevention of Tax Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and Capital (came into force 10.11.95);
  • Agreement on Readmission of Persons (came into force 01.05.97);
  • Agreement on the Abolition of Visa Requirements (came into force 02.05.97). 

 

Economic relations

Since Estonia’s accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004, trade between Estonia and Iceland has been regulated by the European Economic Area Agreement concluded between the members of the European Community and the members of the EFTA in 1992.
 

Estonian-Icelandic trade 2013-2017 (million euros)

 Year Turnover Export Import
2013 20.7 19.3 1.4
2014 20.8 18.5 2.3
2015  22.1 21.0 1.1
2016 22.6 21.6 1.0
2017 31.3 31.0 0.3

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia

Primary articles of export in 2017:

  • Products of the chemical industries (including fertilizers) – 22%
  • Wood and articles of wood (including wooden houses, veneer) – 17%
  • Animal products (frozen crabs) – 14%

 

Primary articles of import in 2017:

  • Prepared foodstuffs – 65%
  • Animal products (crabs, mutton, live fish) – 31%
  • Optical, photographic, measuring or medical instruments – 18%                         

FISHERY

The sector that has seen the most active economic co-operation is fishery. Estonia and Iceland both participate in the Committee of Fisheries of the UN FAO and the International Council for Exploration of the Sea. Ships sailing under the Estonian flag mostly catch shrimp in areas regulated by NAFO (the north-west Atlantic region, the area that falls between Greenland and the coast of Canada/the USA) and have been the most prominent shrimp catchers from the EU in that area for years. 

INVESTMENTS                                                                                              

According to the data of the Bank of Estonia, as of 31.12.2017 Icelandic investors had direct investments in Estonia totalling about 55.9 million euros (0,2% of all foreign investments made in Estonia). As of April 2016, the Estonian Commercial Register contained 26 enterprises with Icelandic involvement. Estonia's direct investment position has not been disclosed due to data protection principles.     

TOURISM

In 2013-2016, about 1000 Icelandic tourists per year stayed overnight in Estonia, in 2017 by about 1600. Statistics on Icelandic tourists visiting Estonia (and staying overnight in accommodation establishments) has showed a small recovery from the drop that occurred as a result of Iceland’s economic difficulties.

 

Cultural relations

Many of the contacts between the art and cultural circles of Estonia and Iceland have formed on an individual level, the development of relations has also been aided by the representation of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Estonia. In addition, Iceland, along with Norway and Liechtenstein, was the third donor country from EEA to support Estonian manor schools and their surroundings through a project called "Manor schools – preservation trough utilization".

FINE ARTS

In the spring of 2015, 3 Estonian artists – Raul Keller, Kris Lemsalu and Ene-Liis Semper – participated in the Iceland Biennale: the art in real time festival Sequences VII.

The exhibition "Saaga. Icelandic art stories" was on display at the KUMU art museum in Tallinn in 2016. The exhibition consisted of he most important works by various generations of Icelandic artists, seconded by foreign artists who have worked in Iceland.

MUSIC

In August 2010, the Nordic-Baltic Choir Festival took place in Reykjavik. Estonia was represented by the Kiviõli choir Loit.

In the winter of 2014, Icelandic nights took place in Tartu and Tallinn – the island's culture, music and poetry were introduced and themed food and drinks were offered. The main performer of the evening was folk singer Myrra from Rós Reykjavik.

LITERATURE

Many works of Icelandic classical literature have been translated into Estonian, for example "Older Edda", "Grettir's Saga" and the most important novels by the 1955 Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness. Estonian works translated into Icelandic include a collection of poetry by Jaan Kaplinski. Iceland's former Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson translated Ants Oras' book on Estonia into Icelandic in the 1960s, and in 1973 he translated Andres Küng's book "Estonia – a Small Nation under the Yoke of Foreign Power".

In May 2010, a meet-and-greet with Icelandic author Einar Kárason took place during the international literature festival HeadRead happening in Tallinn. The poet, author and translator Eirikur Örn Norddahl, who has Icelandic roots, also participated in the literature festival in Tallinn.

CINEMA

Cooperative filmmaking has also taken place between Estonia and Iceland: the feature film made by Estonia-Iceland co-operation “Luukas” (1993, director Tõnu Virve, Freyja Film) had a screenplay by Icelandic playwright Gudmundur Steinsson. 

In Stockfish, an annual film festival in Reykjavik, 2 Estonian films were shown in 2016 – “Mother” and “Pretenders”.
The showing of Icelandic films has become a tradition at the Black Nights Film Festival. 

In March 2014, a television programme "Estonian Flag Around Iceland" was aired in television. It followed six Estonian travellers to Iceland  showed the country trough the eyes of an Estonian. The journey was led by Laur-Leho Kaljumets. 

In 2015, an Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Icelandic joint project documentary "Those who dare" (Deir Sem Dora), was screened, which tells the story of the historical events of 1991 when led by Icelandic Foreign Minister Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, the country took the first great step in Iceland by recognising the Republic of Estonia two days after its declaration of re-independence. 

SPORTS

From 1996-1999, Teitur Thordarsson from Iceland was the head coach of the Estonian football team and received the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana IV Class from President Lennart Meri 2000. Icelander Vésteinn Hafsteinsson was the coach of Estonian discus thrower Märt Israel and Gerd Kanter.

EDUCATION

Estonia and Iceland have had educational co-operation through the EU’s higher education programme Erasmus and the Nordic Council of Minister’s Nordplus programme. One good example from the Erasmus programme is co-operation between the Tallinn University Institute of Information Science and the Iceland University School of Social Sciences, on the basis of which students and instructors from the library science and information science departments are exchanged. 

Since 2004 Estonian students have been able to compete on a level playing field with other candidates in the scholarship programme of the Icelandic government “Icelandic for Foreign Students” so 2-3 Estonian students per year have had the opportunity to study in Iceland. 

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