Why is the Icelandic conservative party against membership of the EU?

There is still an ongoing debate in Iceland on whether or not the country should join the European Union. In a new book chapter I make an attempt to examine why the Icelandic centre right party, the largest and most influential political party in the country, is against membership of the EU. The chapter is titled Iceland: The Dominant Party in Thrall to Its Past Discourse. The chapter examines how the party's firm adherence to its belief in the importance of national sovereignty, its Cold War ideological stance and its closeness to the fisheries and agrarian sectors have shaped its European policy and kept Iceland as an awkward partner in the European integration process.

 

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Icexit from the EU membership application?

Our paper on Iceland's approach to Brexit it out. The last Icelandic government and the current sitting government in the country have somewhat had a different take on Brexit than their counterparts in the other EFTA states and in the EU member states. According to prominent Icelandic politicians Brexit presents certain opportunities for Iceland and they have until recently put aside challenges associated with it in the public debate. We claim that the rhetoric in Iceland during and after the Brexit referendum has mainly centred around three topics: (1) how to protect Icelandic interests after Brexit, (2) how to utilize associated opportunities, and (3) what implications Brexit would have on Iceland’s pending EU membership application. The paper is written in Norwegian and titled Island and Brexit: ‘Icexit’ fra söknaden om eu-medlemskap? (Iceland and Brexit: Icexit from the EU membership application?). You will find it in a special issue on the Nordic states and Brexit in Internasjonal Politikk.

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Iceland's relations with its regional powers: Russia, the USA and the EU.

A paper of mine and Pétur Gunnarsson, who is a former student of mine, has just been published online Iceland’s alignment with the EU-US sanctions on Russia: autonomy versus dependence.  It is published in the journal Global Affairs. A printed version will be available soon.  The paper is a part of a number of papers published in a research project constructed and lead by Pernille Rieker and Kristin Haugevik at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). We assessed how a selection of European small states manoeuvre within the field of foreign and security policy, and within EU institutional structures more broadly. The key question of the project was 'Is there a pattern in how small European states adapt and adjust to EU foreign and security policy?'

 

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What is a small state? Why does it matter?

I made an attemp to ‘Define the Small State’ in the Annual Lecture of the Centre of Small States at the Queen Mary University of London. It was also my third Leverhulme lecture at the University.  Caroline Morris, the founder of the Centre and my host at QMUL chaired the event. and Methods for determining whether a state is "small" are almost as many as there are "small states". Smallness has been defined objectively: such as number of inhabitants, geographical area, size of economy and military strength, as well as subjectively: such as domestic and foreign actors' view of the state’s size and capabilities. Some also say that it is the state's own perception of its size that determines whether a state is small. In this way, states such as Monaco and Fiji can been seen as small states, just as Iceland is considered small in comparison with Sweden, while Sweden is seen as small in comparison with Germany. While a universal definition of the small state seems elusive, scholars must, however, take account of the difference in sizes of states/entities in each and every case study. Otherwise they are in danger of overlooking an important explanatory variable, that of smallness.

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The Small-State Survival Guide

Sverrir Steinsson and I have just published a short article The Small-State Survival Guide to Foreign Policy Success in The National Interest, Foreign Policy Experts Roundtable. It is based on our new study 'Small State Foreign Policy' which appears in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Politics.

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Sovereignity and small states

I am honoured to be part of the editorial team and write a chapter on small states and sovereignty in a book about Iceland's sovereignty in 99 years. The book is published to credit the work of David Þór Björvinsson, professor of law and former judge at the European Court of Human Rights. He has written extensively on Iceland and sovereignty. The book manifests his forward thinking and is a collection of interdisiplinary essays on Iceland's sovereignty since 1918.

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Our Centre for Small State Studies awarded a Jean Monnet Networks grant

The Centre for Small State Studies at the University of Iceland was recently awarded a grant from the European Union’s Jean Monnet Activities programme, Jean Monnet Networks. The total amount of the grant is 300.000 euros. Jean Monnet Networks are research projects that are designed to promote excellence in EU studies worldwide and foster a policy-debate with the academic world. The University of Iceland is the lead partner, with nine other universities participating in the project: The University of Copenhagen, Vilnius University, Tallinn University of Technology, University of St. Andrews, the University of Malta, University of Ljubljana, Lund University, University of Zagreb, and the University of the Aegean in Rhodes. The Centre for Small State Studies is run under the auspices of the Institute of International Affairs at the University of Iceland.

Baldur Thorhallsson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland leads the project on behalf of the University of Iceland in cooperation with Pia Hansson, Director of the Institute of International Affairs and Tómas Joensen, Project Manager at the Centre for Small State Studies. During the next three years the ten higher education institutions will develop close cooperation in the field of small state studies. The grant will be used to host workshops, roundtables for young researchers, publish academic papers, policy recommendations, and at the end of the project an academic book.

The Jean Monnet Networks grant is a great acknowledgment of the work carried out by the Centre for Small State Studies, which has specialised in the role of small states in Europe. In 2013, the Centre was awarded a Centre of Excellence grant from the European Union and has operated as a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence since then. The Centre furthermore received two Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership grants, in 2014 and 2016. The Centre for Small State Studies has organized an annual summer school since 2003 and recently received an award of excellence from Erasmus+ for the project.

 

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What should Iceland do in order to deal with the new security environment?

A Small State Seeking Shelter - Iceland's Search for Shelter. Iceland's foreign policy is examined in this Policy Brief published by the Small States and the New Security Environment (SSANSE) Research Project. I come up with several suggestions concerning Iceland's foreign policy and conclude that ' Following the events of 2006-2009, Iceland began searching for a replacement form of shelter provided by other external actors. However, it has not yet secured shelter to the extent that it received from the USA. Icelandic decision-makers need to closely examine to what extent multilateral shelter arrangements (such as NATO, Schengen and the EEA) may be more reliable providers of shelter in times of need, than a single protector such as the USA or the UK.' The Policy Brief was presented at the conference ‘Small States and the Changing Global Order: New Zealand Faces the Future’ at University of Canterbury in New Zealand, 3-4 June 2017.

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The annual Summer School on Small States in Europe

The annual Summer School on Small States in Europe is up and running at the University of Iceland at present. It was a pleasure to discuss how small states cope with the current political challenges in Europe with our 26 students from all over Europe on Monday. Great discussions - great students - great fun.

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Small state foreign policy

New study on small state foreign policy published in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Politics. The size of states is a hot topic today, in particular with the discussions surrounding Brexit and what it means for the UK's future as a global power. Recently, the Danish Finance Minister characterized the UK as a small nation, which if true, would strongly bear on the UK's power and needs. Being small is not completely hopeless though:

"Thankfully for small states, it has never been as easy being small as it is in the current international system with its unprecedented degree of peace, economic openness, and institutionalization. Small states can and do influence world politics in an international system as permissive as the current one. While small states remain highly constrained by their size, there is considerable leeway for maneuver. Small state influence is, however, contingent on the time, effort, and resources that small states put into diplomacy."

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