Sovereignty and shelter

Iceland - a sovereign state for 100 years. An article in one of the main newspapers in Iceland, Morgunblaðið.

Posted in Uncategorized

Recording from the Book Launch: Small States and Shelter Theory

A recording from our Book Launch which we held at the University of Iceland. The aim of the seminar was to answer the question: Which states and international organizations have provided Iceland with political, economic and societal shelter in the past and which world actors will provide Iceland with shelter in the near future?
The importance of shelter for small states
Baldur Thorhallsson, Professor of Political Science, University of Iceland
Do the Nordic states and Nordic cooperation provide Iceland with shelter? Þorsteinn Kristinsson, PhD student, University of Lund, Sweden
Iceland’s relations with the United States:  Shelter or risk?
Sverrir Steinsson, researcher and lecturer at the University of Iceland
Iceland’s participation in the European project:  Shelter or trap?
Baldur Thorhallsson
Panel discussions
Do the Nordic states provide Iceland with shelter?
Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister for Education and Culture
Does the United States provide Iceland with shelter?
Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Alþingi.
Does participation in the European project, particularly Schengen, provide Iceland with shelter?
Georg Kr. Lárusson, Director General of the Icelandic Coast Guard
And speakers
Closing Address
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister, will give the closing remarks and discuss the position of Iceland in the international system
Chair: Pia Hansson, Director of the Centre of small state studies and the Institute of International Affairs

Small States and Shelter Theory: Iceland’s External Affairs presents a new small state theory on the behaviour of small states in the international system and examines Iceland’s external affairs from 1940 to the present. The book is an outcome of an extensive research project on Iceland’s political, economic and societal relations with its larger neighbouring states and international organizations. The research was conducted under the leadership of Professor Baldur Thorhallsson at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Iceland and a team of scholars at the Centre for Small State Studies.

The extend of political, economic and social shelter that Iceland has been provided by its larger neighbouring states and international organizations has been underestimated since 1940. For instance, Nordic cooperation has provided Iceland with essential societal, economic and political shelter and Iceland’s participation is the European project has provided greater societal shelter than anticipated by membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). Also, generally, societal shelter, in terms of transfer of norms and values, has been as of much importance as economic and political shelter.

Ever since the United States closed its military base in Keflavík and refused to help Iceland out during the 2008 economic crisis, Iceland has been seeking shelter by other world actors. Iceland works closely with NATO and its neighbouring states on security and defence, puts greater emphasis on Nordic cooperation, was the first European country to make a free trade agreement with China and applied for membership of the European Union. Moreover, many policy-makers in Iceland regard Brexit as an opportunity and hope to establish closer ties with Britain after it leaves the European Union. Nevertheless, Iceland has not been able to secure itself a comprehensive shelter similar to the shelter it was provided by the United States during the Cold War.

The book is published by Routledge  and can be bought in University Book Store at the University of Iceland and online. More information on the book

Posted in Uncategorized

The book everyone has been waiting for

Posted in Uncategorized

New book in the autumn

This book is coming out in the autumn. It is about Shelter Theory, a new theory in small state studies, and Iceland’s External Affairs, from the British and American occupation in the Second World War to the present. It contains detailed analysis of Iceland’s relations with the United States, the Nordic states and the European Union. It also discusses Iceland’s shelter options in the future and its cooperation with China, Russia and Britian in a post-Brexit world.

The research team included Sverrir Steinsson, Þorsteinn Kristinsson, Dan Devine and Tómas Joensen and the concluding chapter ‘Why Shelter Theory Matters: Ramifications for International Relations and Small State Studies’ is written by my wonderful colleagues Anders Wivel and Christine Ingebritsen.

More information Small State and Shelter Theory: Iceland's External Affairs.

Posted in Uncategorized

New (and old) videos on the website!

New types of updates have been made to the website's pages Media and Videos/Lectures where you will now find videos from lectures and TV interviews. Here is one of the videos you will find there, it is a lecture at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI, bearing the same name as this paper, written a few years back:

Updates have also been made to my list of academic papers and books.

Posted in Uncategorized

The importance of building a community

The Icelandic Student Services (FS) at the University of Iceland is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It has been a privilege to serve on its Board for more than a decade. Here you will find s short interview in Icelandic on how FS has created a community for students and staff at the University. A community is a must for each and every university:

Posted in Uncategorized

Centenary of Icelandic independence and sovereignty

Yesterday, Icelanders celebrated the Centenary of Icelandic independence and sovereignty. The occasion was a reminder of an hour long radio interview on the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service's Rás1, eight years ago, on the meaning of sovereignty:


Posted in Uncategorized

How does Brexit affect the Nordic countries?

A recent Policy Paper, written in collaboration with Pétur Gunnarsson, Kristin Haugevik, Anders Wivel, Juha Jokela, Catharina Sørensen and Björn Fägersten, features an analysis on how Brexit affects the Nordic countries and how they are preparing for it.

Three general findings can be highlighted: "First, … [i]n all the Nordic countries, Brexit has also stirred debates about their current relationships with the EU, prompting EU critics to demand new privileges or opt-outs. Overall, however, the Nordic governments, supported by a stable majority among their populations, have signalled that they wish to preserve their EU membership or current forms of association models, with the access and benefits these provide. Second, for all the Nordic countries, securing good relations with Britain post-Brexit is a key priority, but they have generally indicated that maintaining good relations with the EU must come first. Finally, the Nordic governments are well aware that Brexit could create a vacuum in EU policy-making, perhaps tipping the balance among internal clusters. Britain has been a highly visible member of the ‘Northern’ grouping in the EU, and its absence is likely to be noticed. As the Nordic countries are about to lose what has at times been a powerful ally in EU decision-making, they may have to forge new coalitions to safeguard their interests."

The Policy Paper is accessible, in full, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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