Iceland is an island of almost 40.000 square miles, about the same size as Ohio or the former East Germany. About 11% of the country is covered by glaciers. Iceland also has more than 10,000 waterfalls and countless hot springs.
Iceland is located in the North Atlantic, about 3 hours by airplane from major cities in Europe and 5-6 hours from the East Coast of the USA. Shipping distances are 3-4 days to Europe and 7-8 days to the USA. Its mid-Atlantic location makes Iceland an ideal base for companies with business in both continents.
Despite what its chilly-sounding name might suggest, Iceland does not freeze to a halt in winter. The average temperature over the year is higher in Finnafjord than in New York.
Geologically it is a young country, whose active volcanic forces have created huge resources of geothermal energy, which can provide economical industrial steam and electricity, while pollution-free hydropower resources have to some extent been developed in the mountainous highland terrain.
Despite its name, Iceland has relatively mild climate for its northern location at a latitude from 66°4’ to 66°33’N and longitude from 3°30’ to 4°3’W. The mean annual temperature in the capital, Reykjavík, is -1.5°C in January and 10.3°C in July. Temperatures from the northern town of Akureyri are -1.9°C in January and 10.9°C in July.
The location and geology of Iceland determine its main natural resources, which are fish from some of the richest and cleanest waters in the world and “green” hydro and geothermal energy. Iceland is the 3rd largest fishing nation in the world, based on its catch volume in 2004. Another major resource is Iceland’s unspoilt natural environment on which a large and growing tourist industry is based. High level of education, openness to innovation and specialist know-how also make Iceland’s human resources an important asset for investors in many fields.
Iceland was settled in the ninth century by pioneering Vikings on the westward expansion, which took them as far as the shores of North America. They founded a unique republic in 930, and the oldest national parliament („Pingvellir“) still functioning in the world today. Iceland passed under Norwegian and later Danish rule but became a fully independent Republic again in 1944.
Icelandic, the language spoken by the Icelanders, is really the ancient tongue of the Vikings and has changed remarkably little during the eleven centuries since the country was first settled. Knowledge of English is almost universal and most people speak one Scandinavian language. The majority of students past compulsory schooling age learn German, Spanish or French
Total population: 339.747 (July 1, 2017). Some 37.6% of the population live in the capital, Reykjavík, and 6.6% in the capital and neighboring communities. With 22.4% of its population aged 15 and below, and 10,7% aged 65 or above, Iceland has the youngest population in Europe. Source: Statistics Iceland, www.statice.is
Iceland is a founding member of the European Economic Area (EEA). This free-trade zone allows the traff-free movement of goods, services, capital and labor. A company domiciled in any of the other 30 member countries of the EEA, and in facts in any of the OECD countries, has the same rights to operate in Iceland as an Icelandic-registered company. It only needs to apply for the same permits and registration as an Icelandic-domiciled company. Companies registered in Iceland are permitted to operate in all the countries of the EEA without any special permits or legislation. The same rules apply to movements of labor. A national of foreign country who intends to stay in Iceland for a period exceeding three months must have a residence permit. However, a national of an EEA member country in search of a job is allowed to stay in Iceland for six months without a residence permit. A standard tax credit can be obtained within the tax authorities. Iceland is actively involved in the work of major international organizations. It is a member of the United Nations, Council of Europe, NATO, EFTA, OECD, GATT, GATS and WTO, and cooperates particularly closely in cultural and social fields with Scandinavian countries through the Nordic Council.
Iceland is a parliamentary democratic republic. The head of state is the president, elected for a term of four years at a time, whose duties lie outside day-to-day party politics. The government is led by the Prime Minister. Parliamentary elections are held at intervals of no more than four years. There are 63 members of parliament, elected by proportional representation. Since no party has secured a parliamentary majority since the establishment of the Republic in 1944, Iceland has always been ruled by coalition governments.