Country Profile: Iceland
Capital and largest cityReykjavik
Area103 000 sq km
Population319 756 (2008 est.)
The republic of Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its landscape, due to its situation on volcanic land, is mountainous and has many geological features such as glaciars and lakes. Iceland in the past has been ranked as the most developed country in the world, for its economic freedoms and very high quality of life. The country is a member of the UN, OECD, NATO, EEA and EFTA.
Icelandic, the official language of Iceland, is a north-Germanic language which is derived from Old Norse. The closest language to Icelandic is Faroese. English is widely spoken as a second language, and other minority languages spoken are Spanish, German, Norwegian and Swedish.
Iceland has a highly developed economy, with one of the highest relative GDPs in the world and extremely high purchasing power internationally. Lacking in natural resources, in the past, the country's income was made from fishing, and this sector still employs around half of the workforce, however, now the economy is also spreading into the service sector. Industries include fish processing, smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, and tourism, while apart from fish, Iceland's main natural resourcse are hydropower and geothermal power. Iceland was one of the worst affected countries by the global economic crisis in 2008.
Iceland has a very environmental and sustainable energy policy, with around 70% of its energy derived from renewable sources, such as hydropower and geothermal. The country expects to be energy-independent by 2050. Despite this, Iceland also produces a lot of harmful greenhouse gases, due to the high percentage of car ownership. The country is unique in that it offers hydrogen at petrol stations.
The country is best known for its epic sagas, such as Gisla saga, but more contemporary writers from Iceland include Laxness and Steinarr, the first of whom won the Nobel prize for literature.
Iceland's most famous musical export is the Sugarcubes singer Bjork, but apart from her other renowned musicians include the band Sigur Ros, mum, Minus and Torrini. Rhyming ballads are also traditional to the country, known as rimur.
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