Iceland and Croatia: Ties that Bind

Total Croatia News

Croatia and Iceland have several bonds which run far deeper that a shared group at next year’s World Cup in Russia. 

In the past few years, the casual observer might ponder how Croatia and Iceland, two countries at opposite pendulums of the European continent, continue to fall into similar categories vis-à-vis everything from size (both small); population (proportionally tiny given their territorial coverage); tourism (the new darlings of the international jet-set, charter-flight-crowds and nature tourism aficionados), film site set location hosts (is it a coordinated or strange coincidence that both Star Wars and Game of Thrones, two of the most successful film and TV franchises of all-time just happen to be filmed in both countries?); and lastly soccer (with both in the same EURO cup group in 2016, the same World Cup European qualifying group in 2018 and as of Wednesday, in the same World Cup group stage division for 2019). Coincidence my dear Watson?

Someone more astute will even recall that prior to Croatia obtaining approval to join the EU in 2011, Croatia and Iceland were actually slated to join in the same year (EU admission protocol rarely allows a country to join on its own and both were ‘approved; by Brussels to join in early 2013). The ‘twindom’ was of course halted when Iceland’s government paused accession talks, whilst Croatia overwhelmingly voted in favour, ultimately becoming the 28th EU member state in 2013.

While some of you may or may not have been aware of the peculiarities above, what you most surely not know is that Iceland was the first foreign state (in international standing) to recognize Croatian independence. No, not the Holy See (the Vatican) nor Germany as many of us tend to believe, although both followed suit not long afterwards. To those who argue, “I thought it was Slovenia and Ukraine?” Technically yes, but Slovenia (like Croatia) had not yet received foreign recognition, and Ukraine, although nominally an international state, had just announced its own independence from the Soviet Union and was awaiting foreign recognition.

It was with bravery, courage and determination, that tiny Iceland, a country of 300,000 people defiantly did what others were hesitant to do in recognizing the independence of Our Beautiful Homeland on December 19th, 1991. I state this proudly as the man responsible, Iceland’s then Foreign Minister, Mr. Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, is a dear friend of mine as is his family. I met the Hannibalsson’s when I was working in Washington, DC in the late 1990s. Two years ago, Kolfinna Baldvinsdottir, a well-known Icelandic journalist and documentary film-maker released, ‘Those Who Dared’ a riveting and heart-breaking account of her father’s role in the independence movements and subsequent recognition of the Baltic and Balkan states. Now while Icelanders are well familiar with this fact, sadly most Croatians seem surprised when informed. Here’s hoping this article changes things and that the next time Croatia faces Iceland on the soccer pitch, our citizens will stand up and give this tiny Nordic nation the kind of applause the Vikings so rightfully deserve. Áfram Ísland!


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