The Future of Europe - View from Reykjavík

The forthcoming book from Palgrave Macmillan, The Future of Europe: Views from the Capitals, sheds light on the political dynamics within the EU member states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. The book features analysis from authors from all the respective states on how their country could get more involved in the European debate, "taking the reader on a journey through various political landscapes and different views. The chapters cover issues ranging from a perceived lack of ambition at the periphery to a careful balancing act between diverse standpoints at the geographical centre." Anxiety regarding national sovereignty, the migration and border discourse, security concerns as well as the obvious need to regain trust and create policies that work, are among common themes that emerge throughout the book's diverse chapters.

The chapter on Iceland, Active Participation, an Icelandic-German Alliance and United Nordic Front, concludes: "Icelandic governments have failed to engage in the European debate on the future direction of the EU and the EEA. A new active strategy is needed in order for Icelandic political (including security and defence) and economic interests to be taken into account in discussions on Europe’s future. A new threefold strategy which would consist of making changes to policy-making at home and active engagement abroad, an Iceland-German alliance, and a united Nordic front could improve Iceland’s performance on the future direction of the EU and the EEA.”

More details on the publication here and here.

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The core elements of our new Shelter Theory

Explaining the behavior of small states in the international system

Two books will shortly be published on Shelter Theory and Iceland’s external affairs from the Settlement to the present day. In our latest Policy Brief on the theory of shelter states we claim that: “...small states/entities will seek economic, political and societal shelter, and that their prosperity will be strongly linked to the nature and depth of shelter provided by larger states and/or international organizations. Shelter theory differs from other Internation Relations theories in several ways. Most notably, small states are fundamentally different units from large states. Second, the alliance choices that small states make not only serve to ensure their security, but may also have roots in domestic pressures to obtain the resources needed to achieve a successful, functional society. Third, small states benefit disproportionately from membership in international organizations as compared with large states. Fourth and fifth, small states seek partnerships with other states and alliances to achieve the resources needed to run efficient administrations and also to get the social and cultural relationships needed to keep their societies vibrant. On the other hand, such shelter does not, of course, come without costs.”

You can read the Policy Brief in full by clicking here.


Posted in Institute of International Affairs and Centre for Small State Studies, Uncategorized

Iceland's relations with the USA and the Nordic states

This article is predicated on the assumption that small states need economic, political and societal shelter in order to prosper, and applies this theory to the case of Iceland in the period 1941–2006 – from the American occupation of Iceland to the closure of the US military base in the country.
It argues that American assistance was crucial for the prosperity of Iceland during the period between 1941 and 2006, by providing extensive political, economic and societal shelter. Nordic cooperation provided a comprehensive societal shelter. Iceland also found shelter within international organizations (such as the UN, NATO, IMF and World Bank) and the norms of the international system.
In terms of societal shelter, the Americans played an important role in transferring norms, lifestyles and ideas, but the Nordic countries remained important providers of societal shelter during the period under study, keeping in line with historic precedent. The Nordic countries cooperated extensively in social and cultural affairs, allowing Nordic nationals to take up employment and settle down across borders, travel across borders without passports and claim social security on the same basis as the nationals of the state in which they are living. Icelanders continued in large numbers to pursue education in the Nordic countries.
Nevertheless, American shelter did not come without costs and controversy.
The paper is available online A Theory of Shelter: Iceland's American Period (1941–2006), with Sverrir Steinsson & Thorsteinn Kristinsson, in Scandinavian Journal of History, published online 15 May 2018.

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Studying small states: a review

Inaugural issue of Small States & Territories, a timely new academic journal initiated and edited by Godfrey Baldacchino. My article in the journal offers an overview of the development of small states studies. 'Studies of small states have never been as relevant as today, especially in the wake of the record number of small states and with more small territories seeking, or in a position to consider, independence. Scholars of small states have challenging and exciting times ahead.’ 

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Iceland and Brexit

Op-ed in Morgunblaðið (based on this study co-authored with Anders Wivel) on the impact of Brexit on the Nordic states (in particular, Iceland). The chapter is from a forthcoming Routledge book. The study was also cited in this recent Bloomberg News article.

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Iceland’s alignment with the EU–US sanctions on Russia

Article in Global Affairs co-authored with Pétur Gunnarsson is now freely available. The article explores Iceland's participation in sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. It is shown that the Icelandic government considered withdrawing its support for the sanctions, in large part due to lobbying by the Icelandic fishing industry (which was harmed by Russian counter-sanctions).

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Russian aggression

Two interviews about Russian aggression and interference in the Western world. The British government reaction to reports of Russian assassinations in London appear to be too lenient.

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Secrets and lies

Spies, the growing Russian threat, political chaos in Britain and the United States. A less secure world? Discussions on international affairs in Viglínan (the Front Line), a Saturday news show on the Icelandic Channel 2 TV station.

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Few worls on stereotypes in a brilliant new internet TV series on LGBTQ+ rights by the Icelandic National Radio.

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Brexit and small states

Forthcoming chapter (co-authored with Anders Wivel) in the The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Brexit (Routledge, 2019), edited by P. Diamond, P. Nedergaard, and B. Rosamond. The aim of the chapter is to unpack how Brexit influences small states in Europe. The main argument is that while all small states are negatively affected by the British decision to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and thereby to effectuate the outcome of the British 2016-referendum on EU-membership to leave the European Union, some small states are considerably more affected than others. As a result, small states are likely to pursue different strategies to meet the challenges following from Brexit. The most prominent among these strategies are hedging, hiding and seeking shelter.

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