‘The Arctic is our most important area of strategic responsibility. This is reflected in the budget proposal for 2021 and in the Government’s long-term priorities. We must safeguard Norwegian interests in the north and to do so we must further develop North Norway as a strong, viable and highly competent region,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
The budget proposal contains a number of initiatives targeted at North Norway. These focus in particular on civil protection and emergency preparedness, climate change and the environment, business development and job creation. It is essential to create more jobs, in more sectors, across the country – and this includes the north. There must be growth in the private sector. Activities are under way to build roads and improve the framework conditions for companies. By the end of the year, the Government will present a new white paper on the Arctic. The initiatives targeted at North Norway in the budget proposal this year are based on the white paper.
‘We have been working on a new white paper on the Arctic for two years, in dialogue with key stakeholders in the north. The white paper will be presented later this autumn. In this work, we have attached particular importance to promoting jobs and value creation and to ensuring good future prospects for young people in the north. The budget proposal for 2021 includes funding for some of the measures outlined in the white paper, which will guide our efforts in the time ahead. Support for these initiatives will be maintained in the budgets for the next few years. Other important plans such as the National Transport Plan and the Long-term Defence Plan will also be of crucial importance to North Norway,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
‘We will pursue an ambitious climate policy and take steps to safeguard vulnerable areas, to combat climate change and protect the environment in the north. This is very important for the business sector in North Norway and in Norway as a whole,’ said Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby.
The Government has proposed a separate allocation of NOK 10 million for Arctic-related efforts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs budget, to be used specifically to implement the measures set out in the new white paper. The funding will be used to support efforts to enhance skills and expertise, promote business development and international cooperation, and encourage people to settle in North Norway.
‘It is essential that young people themselves play an active part in shaping and building local communities, which is why it has been so important to hear what they have to say. The youth panel set up in connection with the work on the white paper has given us honest, insightful input. Young people represent the future and are the reason why we are investing in the north. This makes it vital to provide a good framework for education, housing, entrepreneurship, recreational and cultural activities and transport,’ said Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad.
The Government will implement a number of important measures to promote the further development of North Norway. Some of the main ones are:
Civil protection and emergency preparedness
The Government has proposed an allocation of NOK 139.1 million in 2021 to implement the construction project and subsequent establishment of a new vocational training college for fire and rescue personnel at the Norwegian Fire Protection Training Institute in Tjeldsund municipality in Troms og Finnmark county. This project is one of the measures dealt with in the new white paper, and will serve to strengthen skills and expertise in an important area of civil protection.
In addition, the Government has proposed an increase in funding of NOK 15 million for the Norwegian Sea Rescue Society (Redningsselskapet) for the operation of a search and rescue vessel based in Vardø. A permanently-crewed SAR vessel will ensure that there is a search and rescue service with local knowledge and a more rapid response time, and thus enhance the safety of fishermen and the coastal population in the area.
The Government has also proposed an allocation of NOK 27.8 million for a weather radar station on the Finnmarksvidda plateau. This will be vital for monitoring and providing warnings of extreme weather events and flooding and improving weather forecasts, for traffic safety on the E8 road and for air transport safety, particularly air ambulance flights.
In addition, the Government has proposed an allocation of NOK 60 million for avalanche and landslide protection in Svalbard as part of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security budget.
The Government will continue to invest in the Norwegian Armed Forces and has proposed an increase in the defence budget of approximately NOK 3.5 billion. Measures will be implemented to strengthen emergency preparedness and Norway’s defence capability in the north, and the budget proposal includes allocations for increased activities in Finnmark, strengthening the capacity of the border guard, further development of the Porsanger battalion and the Finnmark Land Defence District. In addition, the introduction of the Army’s new short-range air defence capability will provide essential air defence protection for Norwegian military forces in Troms og Finnmark county.
Climate change and environment
The Government has proposed an initial allocation of NOK 30 million for the remediation of contaminated sediments in Hammerfest port. This will be a three-year project and it is estimated that the total government support needed will be NOK 128 million. Dredged sediments will be disposed of on land and used in the construction of new port facilities for commercial passenger traffic and fisheries vessels.
The Government has also proposed an allocation of NOK 25 million for the planning of test and exercise facilities for oil spill response technology at Fiskebøl in the Lofoten Islands. The Government has previously decided that the Norwegian Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment is to have facilities in both the Lofoten and the Vesterålen Islands. The new allocation will be a step in this direction.
The Government has also proposed an allocation of NOK 13 million for improving coastal monitoring. NOK 11 million of this will go to the Institute of Marine Research and NOK 2 million to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. This funding will partly be used to develop a new coastal observing system (Coastwatch). The system will be able to provide warnings of threats along the coast, and will help to reduce the damage caused by blooms of toxic algae or jellyfish, which can pose a threat to fish farms. The initiative will also lead to greater understanding of coastal ecology and what is causing the changes that are being observed, for example in coastal cod and shrimp stocks. This will provide a basis for improving the management regime.
Transport and infrastructure
Infrastructure is a key priority in Norway’s Arctic policy, and is vital for business development and job creation. That is why the Government is giving priority to continuing the preparatory work for the E8 Sørbotn – Laukslett project, as the main road to Tromsø. At the same time, a preliminary agreement has been signed with Nye Veier AS on work to develop the E6 Kvænangsfjellet mountain pass. This is the only road in Norway that connects Finnmark with the rest of the country. It is closed for much of the winter. A new road will help to keep the region’s wheels in motion, and will ensure that lorries in particular can reach their destination safely.
The Government has also proposed an allocation of NOK 15 million to maintain air services on the Evenes-Bodø route, which is important for the business sector and the inhabitants of Nordland county.
Efficient and safe railways are vital if we are to get people to choose to travel and transport goods by rail. The Government has therefore proposed installing the new European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) on the Nordland Line in the course of 2021. The system will improve safety and punctuality and, in the long term, provide greater capacity.
Business and social development
The Government is implementing a major initiative to boost education to meet the needs for restructuring and counter the adverse impacts of the ongoing pandemic and rise in unemployment. Earlier this year, a decision was made to allocate funding for 160 new student places and 10 academic recruitment positions at Nord University. UiT – The Arctic University of Norway (in Tromsø) gained 372 new student places and 23 recruitment positions while the Sami University of Applied Sciences gained 10 new student places and 1 recruitment position. The Government will increase its funding for student places so that new students can be admitted in 2021. This will result in an increased allocation of NOK 80.5 million for student places to these three institutions combined, together with NOK 46 million to maintain a total of 34 recruitment positions.
The Government will provide up to NOK 100 million, over the period 2022–2024, to Bodø, in its capacity as the European Capital of Culture in 2024. This initiative has important social and regional policy implications, not only for Bodø itself, but also for the whole of North Norway.
The Government has proposed NOK 30 million for mapping of seabed minerals in 2021. The Government has also initiated an opening process for mineral extraction on the Norwegian continental shelf. The Government will also further expand petroleum research and expertise addressing challenges that are specific to the Arctic.
Statnett’s ongoing and planned efforts to expand and reinforce the electricity grid facilitate security of supply, business development and the use of renewable resources in the region.
The Government will strengthen the fisheries control system. Illegal catches and sales undermine sustainable management and the competitiveness of responsible and law-abiding commercial actors. The Government will increase funding for fisheries control by NOK 42 million in 2021, financed through inspection fees charged to fishing vessels. This will require substantial investment in digital infrastructure. The Government has therefore proposed an increase of NOK 32 million in funding for the inspection and enforcement work of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, to be used for investments in technology and expertise. NOK 10 million will be allocated to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries for measures to support the development of a fisheries control system for the future.
The Government has proposed an allocation of NOK 15.5 million to complete the pre-project phase for the Blue Building at Nord University in Bodø. The construction project is part of the Government’s ocean-related and health-related efforts, and will help to strengthen marine and health-related expertise in North Norway.
Sami perspectives are an integral part of Norway’s Arctic policy. In the budget proposal for 2021, the Government has proposed an increase of NOK 10 million in funding to further develop the regional Sami resource centre (Resak) and turn it into a national Sami resource centre. This centre will then be tasked with providing advice to municipal and state child welfare services, family counselling services and municipal crisis centre services across the country. With this proposal, the Government will make it possible to provide more equitable services for Sami children and families and enhance trust in the health services among the Sami population.
The Government is also fulfilling its pledge to the community on Andøya and has proposed an extraordinary allocation of NOK 15 million for local restructuring.
The Government has also proposed an allocation of NOK 4 million for a pilot project in Narvik in 2021 aimed at improving cooperation between government agencies and supporting the creation of larger specialist communities.