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Iceland's Long Shadow

The recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is not the first time Iceland has thrust itself upon the European and global stage.

Indeed, this small Nordic country with only 315,000 inhabitants has played a remarkably prominent role at important junctures of history. Four of these periods come to mind:

1) The Icelandic eruption of 1783 led to "the year without summer" for much of Europe and the resulting famine contributed to the civil unrest in France. Some historians go so far as to say the French Revolution was a direct result of the volcanic eruption on Iceland.
2) The invasion and occupation of Iceland in World War II marked the transfer of naval power from the United Kingdom to the United States. While Great Britain invaded the island in 1940 to preempt a German invasion, the British quickly recognized they were unable to maintain their occupation force on the island. By 1941, American forces were occupying the island, and the new hegemon in the neighborhood was quickly recognized.
3) The Cod Wars between Iceland and Great Britain was one of only two major conflicts between NATO countries and nearly led to a full-fledged war between the two island nations. The conflict centered on fishing rights in Iceland's coastal waters and eventually led to international law regarding fishing rights and the EU's Common Fisheries Policy. Lingering concern about Icelandic fishing rights continues to be the biggest reason why Iceland remains outside the EU.
4) Beginning in 2003, Icelandic banks and investors were on the cutting edge of a global financial sector that used complex models, leveraging, and financial products to make enormous profits. But by 2006, it was already becoming apparent that the incredible explosion of the Icelandic banking sector was not sustainable and the island was on the leading edge of the global economic meltdown.

And now, citizens on both sides of the Atlantic have again remembered the island in the middle of the North Atlantic. 
It is just unfortunate that the lovely mid-Atlantic country always seems to remind us of its presence in such unpleasant ways.

Climate Sanctions Proposed Against the United States and the European Car Industry

Germany's Social Democrats are calling for sanctions on energy-intensive US export products if the Bush administration continues to obstruct international agreements on climate protection, writes The Boston Globe (HT: David).

Meanwhile, German car manufactures and many politicians are angry at EU plans to impose hefty financial penalties against companies, whose fleet of cars does not reduce carbon emissions enough. The idea is to slash auto emissions by 25%. The EU proposal came the same day the U.S. passed tighter fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks, which could affect a brewing national debate about emissions. The Wall Street Journal writes that in the case of Volkswagen, the penalties could total as much as Euro 1.4 billion (US-$ 2.02 billion), roughly half the company's 2006 net income.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Germany's Dirty Cars