Iceland. The conflict around EU membership has grown since negotiations with the EU were canceled last year. In February, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson declared that the coalition with the Independence Party and the Progress Party decided to withdraw Iceland’s application for EU membership without a referendum. Most parliamentarians in the two parties supported the decision, but a group of EU-friendly members appealed for a referendum promised by the Independence Party ahead of the election the year before.
Outside the Reykjavik Parliament, thousands of people gathered in protest against the government demanding a referendum. The protests went on for weeks. Tens of thousands of Icelanders signed a letter. In the Parliament, the debate became fierce, where the Foreign Minister was forced to apologize after accusing an opposition member of lying.
In a survey, 82% said they wanted a referendum on whether Iceland would continue to negotiate EU membership, even though a majority said no to the EU. During the year, support for the government coalition fell sharply in public opinion.
According to Countryaah.com, Iceland population in 2020 is estimated at 341,254. The government’s problems escalated when Iceland in March ended up outside a settlement of catch quotas for mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic. After the negotiations broke down and the Icelandic delegation left home from the UK, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands signed their own agreement to end a four-year mackerel war.
Iceland accused Norway of the collapse of the negotiations, and the Icelandic government claimed that Norway, the EU and the Faroe Islands engaged in counterfeiting behind Iceland’s back. The Icelandic opposition felt that the government itself was to blame for the failure.
In May, some 54,000 Icelanders, more than a fifth of all voters, had signed the referendum on the EU issue. When the petition was handed over to the Allting, Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said that it might be possible to resolve the issue of people’s participation in some way.
The EU-friendly Independent European group decided to form a new party, and according to an opinion poll, an EU-friendly right-center party could get more than 20% of the vote.
In the local elections in May, the Social Democratic Alliance became the largest in Reykjavík, while the Independence Party won in all major municipalities outside the capital.
The Icelandic energy company Eykon Energy started the year in search of oil outside eastern Iceland in collaboration with the Chinese company CNOOC. Eykon Energy estimated that oil deposits in the Norwegian Sea between the northeastern coast of Iceland and the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen could be worth over a billion dollars. Under an agreement with Norway, the deposits are to be shared between the two countries.
When the economic figures for 2013 were presented, it turned out that for the first time the tourism industry has gone about fishing as Iceland’s largest export industry. 2014 seemed to be the fourth consecutive year of economic growth following the deep economic crisis. GDP was expected to increase by close to 3%.
In August, activity in the Barðarbunga volcano was noticed under the Vatnajökull glacier, and a series of earthquakes occurred there. The risk of a volcanic eruption was worrying because ash from a major eruption in Barðarbunga could affect large areas of northern Europe. Residents and tourists were evacuated from the area north of Vatnajökull, and air traffic was stopped for a short period in the area near the volcano.
In September, the government received a diplomatic protest against the commercial Icelandic whaling from 35 countries’ governments, including the United States and all EU members.
When the government presented its plan for debt amortization on the mortgage after the financial crisis, it received harsh criticism from the opposition for using taxpayers and for getting high-income earners more than low-income earners. The measures were estimated to cost the equivalent of almost SEK 5 billion.
In November, thousands of people outside the Allting protested against the government’s policies, especially with regard to health care and education. The protest was also directed at Interior Minister Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, who has long been criticized for her department planting false information about asylum seekers in the media.
The ministry denied the accusations for a year, but the minister’s staff eventually acknowledged that he was behind the fabricated leak. He was sentenced in November to eight months in prison. At that time, the Interior Minister also left his post after long resisting the demands for resignation, trying to influence the police investigation and demanding that uncomfortable journalists be dismissed.