Iceland and the EU: Understanding the Reasons Behind their Non-Membership

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Do you know why Iceland is not a member of the European Union? Iceland is an island nation located in the North Atlantic, and it is a popular travel destination because of its breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders. However, despite being a part of Europe, Iceland is not a member of the EU. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Iceland is not a member of the European Union.

Geographical Location of Iceland

Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and it is the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The country is geographically a part of Europe, but it is separated from the mainland by the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is closer to Greenland and Canada than it is to mainland Europe.

The History of Iceland and the EU

Iceland has a long history of political independence, and it has only been a part of the Kingdom of Denmark until 1944 when it gained its independence. In 1949, Iceland became a founding member of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it has maintained a close relationship with the United States. Later, Iceland became a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but not the EU.

Referendum in 2013 and EU Membership

Iceland has considered joining the EU several times, and in 2010, it officially began the process of joining. However, after three years of negotiations, Iceland withdrew its application in 2013.

There were several reasons for Iceland’s decision not to join the EU. One reason was the financial crisis of 2008, which hit Iceland hard and made joining the EU less attractive.

According to Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland during the negotiations: “We are a country that has experienced that our interests and our values have been compromised by some external forces that we felt were beyond our control. And so we are very aware that in joining international organizations, we lose a degree of independence that we have cherished for much of our history.”

The Economy of Iceland and EU Membership

Iceland has a small and unique economy, and it relies heavily on its natural resources, such as fishing, geothermal energy, and tourism. Joining the EU would mean that Iceland would have to adopt the euro as its currency and subject its economy to EU regulations, which could have an impact on its industries.

The Icelandic krona’s depreciation during the financial crisis also made it difficult for Iceland to meet the EU’s financial criteria for membership.

The Political Landscape of Iceland and the EU

Iceland’s political landscape is quite unique, with a strong tradition of independent politics and a distrust of political elites. The country’s parliamentary system is based on proportional representation, which means that smaller parties have a greater chance of being represented in government.

Joining the EU could mean a loss of political independence for Iceland. Many Icelanders see the EU as an establishment that is far removed from their reality, and they fear that EU membership could lead to a loss of national identity.


So, why is Iceland not a member of the European Union? The reasons are many and complex, including Iceland’s geographical location, its history of political independence, the unique nature of its economy, and its political landscape. While Iceland has considered joining the EU in the past, it ultimately decided against it, preferring to maintain its independence and unique identity.

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