Estonia and Iceland »

Iceland - Relations


(last updated: 06.08.2014)


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 of the legendary recognition, the square in front of the Estonian Foreign Ministry was in August 1998 named Islandi väljak (Iceland Square) 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.

Diplomatic relations

Iceland first extended de jure recognition to the Baltic States on 30 January 1922, but all diplomatic relations with the pre-war Republic of Estonia were carried out via Denmark for Iceland was officially under the jurisdiction of the King of Denmark. The minimal official relations were limited to Danish Ambassador Sveinn Björnsson (1920-1940, later the first President of Iceland).

In May 1934, Tomas Tomasson was appointed as Estonia’s Honorary Consul in Reykjavik, in which capacity he served until August 1940. War prevented the opening of an Icelandic consulate in Estonia and of other mutual legations. Estonia and Iceland's political contacts were disrupted for 51 years.

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. A few days after the failure of the August coup d`état in the Soviet Union, the foreign ministers of the three Baltic countries were invited to Reykjavik to meet with top politicians. 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 ambassador to Estonia Kristίn Aðalbjörg Árnadóttir presented her credentials to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 15th of January 2014. The ambassador resides in Helsinki. Estonian Ambassador to Iceland Simmu Tiik presented his credentials to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson on 9 October 2012. The ambassador resides in Oslo.

Estonia's Honorary Consul General in Iceland is Jón Sigurðarson. Iceland's Honorary Consul in Estonia is Jaak Oja.


To Iceland
April 2013 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
December 2012 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
June 2010 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on state visit
August 2009 Foreign  Minister Urmas Paet at the meeting of the NB8 foreign ministers
February 2008 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
October 2005 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
June 2005 Chairman of Riigikogu Ene Ergma
May 2004 President Arnold Rüütel
August 2001 Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves
May 2001 Prime Minister Mart Laar


To Estonia
March 2014 Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson at the meeting of the NB8 and V4
March 2013 Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson
August 2011 President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson
August 2011 Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson
October 2010 Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson
September 2008 Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir at the meeting of the NB8 foreign ministers
May 2008 Foreign Minister 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



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). 

Political 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 took place in Tallinn. The event was organised as a thank-you to Iceland for its brave decision 20 years ago to be the first country to recognise Estonia’s restored independence. Musical acts from the island nation performed in venues all over Tallinn, many exhibits were opened, and on Iceland Square in front of the Foreign Ministry building an Iceland-inspired food market was held. In connection with Iceland Day President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson visited Estonia; topics at their meetings here included good bilateral relations and Iceland’s accession negotiations with the European Union.

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 with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in attendance. From 6-7 October 2009 a meeting of the secretaries general of the foreign ministries of NB8 countries was held in Reykjavik, which was attended by Foreign Ministry Secretary General Marten Kokk. In 2014 a meeting of NB8+V4 was held in Estonia and it was attended by Icelandic Prime Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson.

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 in Iceland in 2009, sending two Estonian Air Force gunners to Iceland among the ranks of the Danish Air Force.

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. Estonia is sharing its EU accession experience with Iceland – for example, on Estonia’s initiative an EU seminar took place in Iceland from 12-13 April 2010.

Thanks to the relationship between the foreign ministries of Estonia and Iceland, in 2006 the parties 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 of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svanet region (in the crisis area on the administrative border of Georgia and Abkhazia) was carried out at the police college of the Estonian Public Service Academy with co-financing by the Icelandic Foreign Ministry. In addition to the Estonian and Icelandic foreign ministries, the Finnish Interior Ministry and UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) were also partners. Currently Iceland’s participation in the project has ended.

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.

According to the data of the Bank of Estonia, as of 31 March 2014 Icelandic investors had direct investments in Estonia totalling about 33.8 million EUR.

The total turnover of trade between Estonia and Iceland in 2013 was 20.73 million Euros.

Estonian-Icelandic trade 2005-2013 (in millions EUR)

 Year Export % of total exports Import % of total imports
2005 15.55 0.25 0.44 0.01
2006 18.29 0.24 0.81 0.01
2007 16.56 0.21 0.97 0.01
2008 12.82 0.15 0.78 0.01
2009 8.66 0.13 1.07 0.01
2010 21.77 0.25 1.21 0.01
2011 19.30 0.16 2.47 0.02
2012 21.36 0.17 1.69 0.01
2013 19.35 0.16 1.38 0.01

In the first quarter of 2014 export reached to 3.9 million Euros and in import to 0.57 million Euros whereas turnover of trade was 4.45 million Euros.

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia

Main articles of export:

  • Animal products (frozen prawns and shrimps)
  • Wood and wood products (including wooden houses)
  • Unmanufactured aluminum
  • Chemical products (including fertilizers)
  • Plastics and plastic products

Main articles of import:

  • Animal products (primarily frozen prawns and shrimp)
  • Prepared foodstuffs and beverages (products and canned goods with crayfish, molluscs, and other marine invertebrates)
  • Machinery and equipment (medical and measuring equipment)


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 Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) and the International Council for Exploration of the Sea. On the international level they have co-operated within the framework of NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization) and NEAFC (Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission). In connection with EU membership, Estonia’s bilateral co-operation with Iceland in NAFO as well as in NEAFC came to an end. Estonia is now represented in those organisations by the European Commission.

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. The company that works with shrimp fishing in that region is AS Reyktal, which runs on Icelandic capital.


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. There is no doubt that the results from 2011 were influenced by cultural diplomacy – in August 2011 the well-attended Iceland Day event took place in Estonia. In 2010 there was a total of 2056 nights spent in Estonian lodgings, in 2011 it was 2478, but in 2012 only 2166 nights.

Cultural Relations

Many of the contacts between the art and cultural circles of Estonia and Iceland have formed on an individual level, and the development of relations has also been aided by the representation of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Estonia. A notable event in the cultural realm was the focus on Icelandic cinema during the Black Nights Film Festival. The 2011 festival included a special programme dedicated entirely to Icelandic cinema, which brought some of the best Icelandic films to audiences 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 2009-2010 the International SAMPO Creation Project took place. It was a co-operation project between students and instructors from art schools in Estonia, Finland and Iceland, in the course of which elements from Finnish, Estonian and Icelandic mythology and folklore were written or drawn together. The resulting story was turned into comics and animation during workshops that were held in Estonia and Iceland; these elements were eventually put together in Finland to create a SAMPO packet.

The visit to Iceland has also inspired Estonian artists. For example: In 2010 an exhibit of Uno Roosvalt’s beach landscapes “On North Border” took place in the Vaal Gallery, where there was a separate series of paintings displayed based on a trip to Iceland; in 2009 Evi Tihemetsa’s graphics exhibit “Icelandic Stones” was on display in the Vabaduse Gallery; in 2008 Pille Tammela’s exhibit “Icelandic Revelation” appeared in the E-Kunstisalong.


In February 2008 the Philharmonic Chamber Choir gave three concerts in Iceland to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.

In 2008 a workshop of the Nordplus EMD (Exploration in Music and Dance) co-operation network and conference took place in the Iceland Academy of the Arts, where participants from Estonia were jazz piano instructor Tõnu Naissoo, percussionist Liina Amon, and pianist Farištamo Leis from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and dance teacher Jane Raidma and dancers Kaarel Väli and Anu Vask from Tallinn University.

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

In September 2010 the vocal improvisation teacher from the Iceland Academy of Arts and singer Marta Hrafnsdóttir participated in the XII Autumn Festival of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Marta Hrafnsdóttir organised a series of workshops and performed at the main concert of the festival along with students of the Academy. Hrafnsdóttir has had contacts with the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre since 2006, when she led a vocal improvisation course at the Academy and became acquainted with local vocal improvisation instructors Anto Pett and Anne-Liis Poll.


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.


In 2008 the Icelandic family film “No Network” (director Ari Kristinsson) was screened at the Just Film Festival. The film was also distributed to cinema and cultural centres across the country. Co-operative 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. “Luukas” was the first Estonian film that received a global distribution contract.

The dance film “Teine/Another” (2005, screenplay Rene Vilbre, Teet Kask and Helena Jonsdottir [Iceland]; director Rene Vilbre). The story was interpreted in dance by producer and short filmmaker Jonsdottir. The film won the Short Film Grand Prix from the 2006 Cinessonne Festival in Essonne, France. The film has also participated in other festivals and has been shown on numerous TV channels.

In November 2010 the Estonian nature-themed television programme “Osoon” dedicated its episodes to introducing Icelandic nature, including taking a closer look at how volcanoes work. Osoon’s exploratory trip to Iceland was supported by the representation of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Estonia.

In 2014 some Estonian marine workers were lucky to participate in an Icelandic film "Of Horses and Men" where they played crew members of a fishing vessel. In March the same year a television programme "Estonian Flag Around Iceland" was brought to the television. It followed six Estonian wanderers to Iceland and showed the country trough the eyes of an Estonian. The journey was led by Laur-Leho Kaljumets and he was accompanied by Kalle Volkov, Laur Linnupõld, Indrek Kikas and Sten Argos.


The Estonian and Icelandic football teams have met many times. 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 (24.02.2000). Icelander Vésteinn Hafsteinsson is the trainer of Estonian discus thrower Märt Israel and trained another thrower Gerd Kanter until 2012.


Estonian university students are interested in opportunities to study in Iceland. Students go to Iceland through various programmes or independently. On the state level, 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. The aforementioned programmes allow both students and instructors to travel abroad. In Estonia these endeavours are co-ordinated by the Archimedes Foundation in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Research. During the last few years, 1-2 students from each country have consistently participated in Estonia-Iceland student exchange through the Erasmus 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. In addition, the same partners co-operate in the Nordic and Baltic doctorate school NORSLIS.

From 1994-2004, the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture offered scholarships to two Estonian students to study Icelandic language and literature at University of Iceland (in Reykjavik). 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”. 2-3 Estonian students per year have had the opportunity to study in Iceland. The language scholarship given out by the Icelandic government for study at University of Iceland is meant primarily for those students who have already begun Scandinavian studies at their home university and would like to supplement their study of the Icelandic language


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