State and official visits to countries outside Iceland
1981 Denmark, Queen Margrethe
1981 Norway, King Olav, Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja
1981 Finland, planned visit cancelled due to the sickness of the Finnish President Kekkonen
1981 Sweden, King Carl Gustaf
1982 Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
1982 Greenland, Henrik Lund, mayor of Qaqortoq (Julianeháb), Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Prince Henrik and others
1983 France, President François Mitterand
1983 Portugal, President Antónío Ramalho Eanes
1984 Finland, President Mauno Koivisto and Mrs Tellervo Koivisto
1985 Netherlands, Queen Beatrix
1985 Spain, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia
1987 Italy, President Francesco Cossiga
1987 Faroe Islands, Prime Minister Atli T. Dam
1988 West Germany, Norbert Burger, mayor of Cologne
1989 Canada, Jeanne Sauvé, governor general of Canada, in Ottawa
1990 Luxembourg, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Jósephine Charlotte
1991 Ireland, President Mary Robinson
1993 Norway, King Harald
1994 Slovakia, President Michal Kováč
1994 Czech Republic, President Václav Havel
1995 China, President Jiang Zemin
State and official visits by foreign heads of state to Iceland during the Vigdís’s term of office
1981 Pierre Trudeau, prime minister of Canada
1982 Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik of Denmark; Mauno Koivisto, president of Finland
1983 Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, prime minister of the Cape Verde Islands
1985 Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik of Denmark
1986 Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Jósephine Charlotte of Luxembourg
1987 King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden
1988 Prime Minister Atli T. Dam of Faroe Islands
1989 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
1990 Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; François Mitterrand, president of France; Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic and his wife Olga
1991 Mauno Koivisto, president of Finland; Francesco Cossiga, president of Italy
1992 King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway; Richard von Weizsäcker, president of Germany
1993 Mário Soares, president of Portugal
1994 Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus of the Netherlands
1995 Martti Ahtisaari, president of Finland, and his wife Eeva
1996 Mary Robinson, president of Ireland
Pope John Paul II visited Iceland in 1989.
Vigdís made her first state visit to Denmark in February 1981. The visit attracted wide interest in the Copenhagen media, not least because it involved the meeting of two female heads of state. One particularly memorable occasion was a luncheon arranged for Vigdís and Queen Margrethe of Denmark by the Danish Union of Journalists which ended with a press conference at which the two heads of state faced 400 journalists and newsmen. This appears to have been the first time the queen had accepted an invitation to attend a press conference organised from outside the royal palace.
The media noted the rapport that had built up between the two women and remarked on Vigdís’s warmth and accessibility. When asked at the end of the meeting what headline they would like to see in the newspapers the next day, Vigdís came back immediately with, “The final victory for science: no nuclear weapons.”
In connection with Vigdís’s state visit to Denmark the Danish entrepreneur Peter Brøste set up a prize called the Optimist Prize (Optimistprisen), to be awarded annually to young Icelandic artists, with the president of Iceland as its patron. To quote Brøste: “Her first official visit was to the old country, Denmark, where she appeared in interview on Danish television side by side with Queen Margrethe. I have to say that I was very much taken by the president of Iceland. She was beautiful, strong and straightforward, radiating an aura of so much optimism. She encouraged optimism and co-operation among small nations and this I found inspiring.” When Vigdís stood down as president Brøste asked her to take a seat on the Optimist Prize judges panel.
A month after the visit to Denmark Vigdís welcomed the Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau to Bessastaðir and in autumn 1981 visited Norway, Sweden and Finland. During her time in office Vigdís made official visits to many European countries, as well as to Canada and China.
In November 1990 Vigdís represented Iceland at the coronation of Emperor Akihito of Japan. Her visit provided the occasion for a major publicity campaign about Iceland organised by parties from both Iceland and Japan and intended to promote a more rounded image of the country in Japan. The Japanese had shown great interest in the Reagan/Gorbachev summit at Höfði in Reykjavík and a property developer by the name of Sato who owned an international chain of golf courses came up with the idea of raising a replica of Höfði on his course in Japan. Vigdís attended the opening ceremony and cut the ribbon. The complex included a church next door, with the Japanese Höfði intended as a hotel for honeymoon couples – the idea being that marriage and peace should go hand in hand. At the same time an office of the seafood marketing company Icelandic Group (SH) was opened in Tokyo at a formal ceremony in the presence of the president of Icelandic. A further outcome of the visit was the founding of the Japan-Iceland Society in Tokyo.
Vigdís had in fact been to Japan before, in 1987, to attend the opening of the exhibition Scandinavia Today. On that occasion she met Emperor Hirohito for talks at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, being the last head of state to meet with him before his death in 1989. Vigdís attended his funeral together with 150 other heads of state.
Vigdís made a state visit to China late in August 1995 accompanied by the foreign minister and a delegation of representatives from Icelandic business and industry. The visit coincided with the fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing, at which Vigdís delivered the opening address. She thanked the United Nations for its recognition of the universal nature of the human rights of women, declared that peace and equality of the sexes were interlinked concepts, and hoped that the conference would make a lasting contributing to world peace. Iceland had opened its embassy in Beijing only half a year earlier and the presidential visit played a significant part in smoothing the way for increased trade and business relations between the two countries.