Translated from Norwegian
We listen carefully in our dialogues with our partners. But
we also make it quite clear that there are some questions that are
not up for discussion or negotiation.
In a few days’ time, the Nordic
foreign ministers will be meeting in Svalbard. There are many good
reasons for the choice of venue. Svalbard is an important part of
Norway. It offers spectacular scenery. And the important political
issues connected to sustainable resource management of the High
North are right on our doorstep. This gives an important signal,
and I am delighted therefore to be hosting this event in Svalbard.
The visit of the Nordic foreign ministers will be an excellent
opportunity to discuss the full range of issues relating to the
High North as well as a number of other items on the international
agenda, including the situation in the Middle East.
It is frequently claimed in the
public debate that Norway’s role in Svalbard is only to manage the
archipelago in the best interests of the world community, or of the
parties to the Svalbard Treaty. This is wrong. Several possible
solutions were discussed before the status of Svalbard was
determined. One of these was just such a management role for
Norway. But it was rejected in favour of granting Norway full and
absolute sovereignty over the archipelago. Since 1925, Svalbard has
been part of the Kingdom of Norway, and will continue to be so.
In accordance with the Svalbard Treaty, Norway is
obliged to grant the parties to the treaty equal access to take
part in the activities specified in the treaty. The Norwegian
authorities set the rules for industrial operations in Svalbard.
Within this framework, which includes the protection of the
vulnerable natural environment, nationals from all the parties to
the treaty are equally entitled to carry out industrial operations
in the archipelago. Thus, Norway may not set any discriminatory
rules. The prohibition against discrimination is not unique to
Svalbard; other international agreements also contain prohibitions
against discrimination in a number of areas.
The settlements in Svalbard have
undergone considerable changes and are now more diverse and dynamic
than ever before. This is a development we welcome. The archipelago
is well situated for research into subjects such as climate change,
the aurora borealis, deep sea currents and biological diversity.
This, combined with state-of-the-art technological infrastructure
and easy access, has made Svalbard a centre of excellence,
attracting polar researchers from some 20 different countries. The
facilities include the University Centre of Svalbard, which is an
important arena for international cooperation on research and
further education. The archipelago is and will continue to be at
the top of the league in terms of Arctic research
Modern-day tourists are drawn to exotic
destinations. Svalbard is undeniably exotic. It offers
opportunities to experience an Arctic environment with easy access
and a level of comfort that many people now consider essential. We
welcome tourists to Svalbard, but we also have to make sure that
the main tourist attraction – the wild, unspoilt nature – remains
just that. The Government wants Svalbard to be one of the world’s
best preserved wilderness areas, and around 70 per cent of the
archipelago is protected.
Coal mining is the Svalbard
community’s oldest livelihood. The mines and the jobs they generate
are an important part of the economic activity in Svalbard and help
to maintain its settlements. The extraction of coal within the
framework of the necessary environmental regulations will continue
to be an important industry in Svalbard in the future.
I would also like to say a few words about the sea
areas off Svalbard.
It was recently reported in the
media that the UK has protested against Norway’s plans to establish
an economic zone around Svalbard, where we now have a fisheries
protection zone. This is not the case. The UK has put forward its
views on the legal status of the sea areas outside Svalbard’s
territorial waters. Some of these views coincide with ours, whereas
others do not. We do however agree on the importance of responsible
resource management, including in the sea areas around Svalbard, in
accordance with the provisions of international law.
Norway wants to direct more
attention to the common challenges in the High North. We have
initiated a number of dialogues on these issues with states that
have an interest in the region. As the need for energy continues to
grow and the energy reserves in other areas continue to decline,
the interest in this part of the world and its unexploited
resources is increasing.
The fishery resources in the
Barents Sea and the sea areas around Svalbard have been under
pressure for a number of years from states with limited resources
in their own waters. We listen carefully in our dialogues with our
partners. But we also make it quite clear that there are some
questions that are not up for discussion or negotiation. One of
these is the question of Norway’s continued jurisdiction in
accordance with international law and with a view to responsible
management of resources.