4 Main objectives and instruments
4.1 Objectives of Norwegian policy towards Svalbard
4.1.1 The overriding objectives remain unchanged
The objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy have remained the same for a long time and are set out in Report No. 40 (1985–86) to the Storting concerning Svalbard and Report No. 9 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, Svalbard. These objectives have been repeated in subsequent Storting documents concerning Svalbard and are reaffirmed annually when the Svalbard budget is approved. The Government’s overriding objectives for its policy towards Svalbard are:
Consistent and firm enforcement of sovereignty.
Proper observance of the Svalbard Treaty and control to ensure compliance with the Treaty.
Maintenance of peace and stability in the area.
Preservation of the area’s distinctive natural wilderness.
Maintenance of Norwegian communities in the archipelago.
During the previous overall review of Svalbard policy in 2000 there was broad cross-party agreement in the Storting on these objectives. The objectives as well as the consensus surrounding them are regularly reiterated when matters concerning Svalbard are debated in the Storting. The Government attaches importance to a continuation of this broad political agreement on Svalbard policy. Various governments have stated that the objectives need to be seen in context and that they are within the general goals for Norwegian policy towards ensuring national security and territorial integrity. The objectives are to be within the framework of international law and contribute to international détente and peace. They are securely rooted in national interests and attitudes and accord with the treaty obligations Norway undertook when its sovereignty over the archipelago was internationally recognised. For that reason the objectives serve to meet the international expectations placed on Norway.
At a time when the Arctic is attracting greater interest, Svalbard policy is intended to help ensure that developments in the High North take place in a peaceful manner and that conflict is avoided. Moreover, by facilitating Svalbard as a platform for Norwegian and international research, Svalbard policy is to contribute to a better understanding of climate change. The Government attaches considerable importance to Svalbard’s role in this connection, because the knowledge that can be obtained there will be of great significance for efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and as a basis for necessary adaptation to the climate changes that must be regarded as inevitable.
In view of this, the Government sees no reason to change the overriding objectives of Norwegian policy towards Svalbard. The objectives create a sense of security, continuity and predictability in the administration of the archipelago that is not only in Norway’s interest but in that of other countries as well. The following is a review of how the main objectives along with other goals for the archipelago are realised in the implementation of Svalbard policy.
4.2 Review and discussion of the objectives
4.2.1 Effective exercise of sovereignty
The administration of Svalbard has reflected the overriding objectives of Svalbard policy. The Government believes that this has made a solid contribution to predictable and proper administration of the area and management of its resources. In a long-term perspective it is also important to ensure Norwegian presence through a community in Longyearbyen that continues to be robust.
4.2.2 Preservation of the area’s unique natural wilderness – environmental protection
Preservation of Svalbard’s unique wilderness has long been one of the overriding objectives of Svalbard policy. The basis of current environmental protection policy is the objectives for preserving Svalbard’s natural wilderness as they are described in Report No. 9 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, Svalbard, which the Storting endorsed in its debate on this report (Recommendation No. 196 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting). The main objectives of environmental protection in Svalbard in Report No. 9 to the Storting have been reaffirmed several times by various governments and Stortings since the report was submitted nearly ten years ago. These objectives also underlie Act No. 79 of 15 June 2001 relating to environmental protection in Svalbard (Svalbard Environmental Protection Act) and its accompanying regulations.
Svalbard has a unique natural wilderness, and flora and fauna that are very rich in an Arctic context. With the exception of the settlements and adjacent areas, the archipelago as a whole is still predominantly a large contiguous wilderness area. An aim is for Svalbard to be one of the world’s best-managed wilderness areas. In recent years Svalbard has been given new, up-to-date environmental rules and extensive protection that are meant to ensure that human presence and activity are kept within the bounds set in the interest of preserving the archipelago’s unique natural wilderness. The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act is largely framework legislation that sets forth the main principles governing the management of the archipelago’s environment. For that reason a number of regulations have been issued to supplement the Act. The objective of the Act is to maintain a virtually undisturbed environment in Svalbard with regard to continuous wilderness, landscape elements, flora, fauna and cultural monuments. Within this framework, the Act allows room for environmentally benign settlement, research and industrial and other economic activities.
Today, 65 per cent of the land area and 87 per cent of the territorial waters in Svalbard are subject to special protection beyond that ensuing from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act. The Government believes that such extensive protection is vital for meeting the objective of preserving Svalbard’s natural wilderness and that the need to learn more about the impacts of climate change in the Arctic make these protected areas more important as reference areas for research.
Environmental protection is an integral part of a coherent Svalbard policy, which stipulates that environmental considerations are to prevail when they conflict with other interests. This entails that the various sectors in Svalbard also have a separate responsibility for avoiding such conflicts and for helping to achieve the environmental goals.
The Government will continue to uphold the environmental goals from Report No. 9 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, Svalbard, in its administration of Svalbard and continue to pursue the ambitious objectives that these goals express. However, the Government deems it important that the goals for environmental protection in Svalbard capture developments occurring since the previous report and the challenges these entail. This pertains especially to climate change and Svalbard’s increasingly important role as a platform for climate and environmental research. But also the growing stream of tourists and increasing use of Svalbard for raising awareness of the vulnerable Arctic environment and the threats faced by species and ecosystems are important in this connection. In this report the Government is supplementing the objectives from the previous Report to the Storting on Svalbard on a number of points. This will highlight Svalbard’s value as an internationally important natural and cultural legacy and the importance of preserving large and essentially undisturbed reference areas for climate and environmental research. To meet the objective of preserving Svalbard’s natural wilderness, the Government also view it as crucial that the policy instruments are refined and used in a manner that correspond to these challenges. The main objectives of environmental protection in Svalbard are presented in Chap. 7 Environmental protection.
4.2.3 A robust settlement in Longyearbyen – a viable local community
Although historically, the number of residents of Longyearbyen has varied, since the previous comprehensive review of Svalbard policy in 2000 there has been a substantial increase in population. At 31 December 2008, 2,018 residents were registered as living in Longyearbyen. As discussed in detail in Chap. 10 Longyearbyen and the other local communities, a number commute between the archipelago and the mainland, so that the real population is somewhat lower. Maintaining a robust community in Longyearbyen is a key part of Norway’s policy towards Svalbard. The establishment of local democracy in Longyearbyen in 2002 has given the local population the right to help determine policy in important areas such as community and land-use planning, infrastructure, economic development and schools, day care and other family and child policies.
Coal mining operations have been very important to the Longyearbyen community. There has been coal mining in Svalbard for more than a century, and coal mining continues to be the most important industry in Longyearbyen – both in terms of the number of jobs and for maintaining Longyearbyen as a family community. At the end of 2008 the Store Norske group had 386 employees, and most of the activity is now in the Svea mine, hereinafter referred to as Svea. In addition, there is a smaller mine near Longyearbyen, and considerable derived activity as a consequence of the company’s operations.
In recent decades the Norwegian authorities have deliberately focused on diversifying the Longyearbyen economy by establishing and investing in activities related to research and education. Development of tourism has also been encouraged. This combination (coal mining, tourism and research and education) is often called “the three pillars” of the Government’s policy, and the commitment to them has in the aggregate contributed to a robust community in Longyearbyen. The population growth in Longyearbyen is due primarily to the increase in activity in coal operations and its derived activities, education, research and tourism. The general increase in activity that has taken place in Longyearbyen in the past ten years has also itself attracted labour.
The Government notes that there has been considerable growth in Longyearbyen in the past decade. Further growth may trigger investment needs related to energy supply, housing, day care and school places, etc. This will also be a challenge to the local authorities in Longyearbyen. Such growth may come into conflict with the ambitious environmental goals set for the archipelago. By employing key policy instruments such as laws and regulations, the local and central administration, appropriations in the national budget as well as the exercise of state ownership, the central government authorities may help to steer developments in a direction compatible with the objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy. At the same time, part of the responsibility for the development of the local community in Longyearbyen is the Longyearbyen Community Council, which through the Svalbard Act also has an obligation to guide developments in line with these objectives. For a detailed discussion of infrastructure etc. in Longyearbyen, see Chap. 10 Longyearbyen and the other local communities.
The rapid growth of Longyearbyen in the past decade was caused by simultaneous increases in activities connected with coal mining, tourism and research and education. According to NIBR report 2008:22, the population of Longyearbyen and Svea together would be approximately 40 per cent lower in the absence of coal mining. Coal mining is therefore crucial for maintaining Longyearbyen as a family community and keeping it stable. On the other hand, the future prospects of coal mining must be viewed in light of the fact that coal is a non-renewable resource. At the same time, trends suggest that in the future, existing and new, varied activities, especially in the areas of research, teaching, space-related activity and tourism will play an even more important role as a basis for the Longyearbyen community.
Following a review of the tax system in Svalbard in 2007, the Government introduced an up-to-date tax system that more closely matches the ordinary tax system on the mainland and international rules. Together with a low income tax rate, this will help to sustain a robust Norwegian community in Longyearbyen. The Government does not wish to plan for Longyearbyen becoming a “cradle-to-grave” community with a full array of services, which is also a precondition for the low tax rate in the new tax regime. However, Longyearbyen will be developed further as a high-quality family community with social welfare and other services adapted to the community’s size and structure, within proper environmental limits.
4.2.4 Svalbard as a research platform
The Norwegian authorities have consciously focused on building up Svalbard as a platform for Norwegian and international polar research. In Ny-Ålesund, nine foreign research institutions have set up permanent research stations. Moreover, Russian and Polish institutions have research activities in Barentsburg and Hornsund, respectively. Svalbard has natural advantages, which, combined with a well-developed infrastructure, enables researchers from around the world to meet in Svalbard for scientific collaboration. The aim is for research activities to take place where Norwegian infrastructure has for the most part already been built.
In recent years it has become increasingly clear that climate change in the polar regions is of fundamental importance for the state of the planet as a whole. As discussed by way of introduction, the Arctic is undergoing dramatic climate changes that also are of great significance for the global climate. Svalbard is a key area for obtaining knowledge about what happens when temperatures in the Arctic rise. This applies both to climate impacts on ecosystems and species and studies of climate processes of global importance. In addition, Svalbard’s geographic location is unique for investigating the atmosphere and for downloading data from satellites in polar orbits. For that reason it is the Government’s objective to continue to develop Svalbard as a particularly valuable and attractive platform for international collaboration in polar research. This topic is discussed in Chap. 8 of the report, Research and higher education.
4.3 Instruments in Norway’s policy towards Svalbard
Report No. 9 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, Svalbard, described developments where the expansion of local administration from the 1970s, with a subsequent clearer distinction between public and private activities, led to responsibility and authority within the various sectors being largely decentralised. Changes in the state ownership structure in the 1990s resulted in administrative agencies being increasingly organised as limited companies. This has served to reduce opportunities for direct control in some areas and for using these companies as active instruments of Svalbard policy. The decentralisation of authority has continued in the 2000s. In addition, the growth of the private sector has accelerated, and today there are many more players in the Longyearbyen community than before. Longyearbyen also has a more diversified economy and array of services and resembles more a mainland municipality.
While coal mining is still the biggest employer, there has in recent years been an increase in both public and private sector activities, especially in tourism. Activity has also increased in research and higher education, in both Ny-Ålesund and Longyearbyen. Developments in the past decade have resulted in a more complex society, making coordination a more important and at the same time more demanding task than it once was.
The introduction of local democracy through the establishment of the Longyearbyen Community Council in 2002 has bolstered local participation in the management of community development in Longyearbyen. The Community Council has authority and responsibility in a number of areas, for the provision of public services and for development tasks within a geographically limited area: the Longyearbyen land-use planning area.
In the aggregate this development has altered some of the control mechanisms over development in Longyearbyen. However, central government still has powerful instruments for use in formulating Norwegian Svalbard policy. As mentioned by way of introduction, the most important of these are regulation through acts of law and other statutory instruments, the local and central administration, appropriations in the national budget and the exercise of state ownership in companies operating in Svalbard.
Since the previous report, environmental rules have been considerably tightened both through a separate, up-to-date environmental protection act with appurtenant regulations and through a considerable geographic enlargement of protected areas. The environmental regulations are the chief basis for central government control of land use in Svalbard. Within the protected areas the Protection Regulations are the most important tool for controlling activity and land use. In the areas that are not protected, activities and land use are regulated by strict, general environmental rules. In land-use planning areas surrounding the settlements, the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act and its accompanying regulations provide guidelines for land-use planning and activities that can impact the environment. The environmental rules are discussed in greater detail in Chap. 7 Environmental protection.
Since the Government is cognisant of the strong national interests and obligations under international law related to the archipelago, it believes that active central government involvement in further development there will be important for the future as well.
4.3.2 Acts and regulations
Norwegian private law, criminal law and procedural law apply in their entirety in Svalbard unless otherwise expressly stated. All other legislation applies only when it is expressly made applicable to the archipelago. Act No. 11 of 17 July 1925 relating to Svalbard (Svalbard Act) lays down this principle and other overarching rules concerning Svalbard. For instance, the King is granted extensive powers to issue regulations in a number of administrative areas.
Legislation is the most important policy instrument for Norway’s exercise of authority in Svalbard and for advancing the objectives of its Svalbard policy. Traditionally, statutory regulation has been considered on the basis of assessments of suitability and of the need for the statutory or regulatory provision in question. However, developments in the past decade especially, when the normalisation of the Longyearbyen community was prominent, have resulted in legislation that was previously not deemed necessary for Svalbard now being applied. In addition, the rules for Svalbard should be as identical as possible with those for mainland Norway.
This development is also justified by the fact that Norwegian administration is served by a set of rules in Svalbard that are as complete and effective as possible. However, matters of a practical or administrative nature or of international law may entail that rules, according to their subject matter, are not directly applicable in Svalbard. As is emphasised in Report No. 9 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, Svalbard, the challenge remains to develop rules that are well-suited to local conditions and that can be effectively enforced on the basis of available resources. The Government wants the regulation of Svalbard to differ as little as possible from mainland legislation unless there are weighty reasons for any difference.
In its deliberation of the previous Report to the Storting on Svalbard, the Storting Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, cf. Recommendation No. 196 (1999 – 2000) to the Storting, requested that the Government consider whether it might be appropriate to amend Section 2 of the Svalbard Act, so that Norwegian statutory provisions are to apply to Svalbard unless expressly stated otherwise. The Office of the Auditor General also pointed this out in its investigation of the management of Svalbard (Document No. 3:8 (2006 – 2007)). The Government has thoroughly reviewed this question and has concluded that such an amendment should not be made. For a detailed discussion of this and other topics related to legislation, see Chapter 5 Legislation.
4.3.3 Central administration
Historically, central authorities have had overriding and direct control over most of the Norwegian activities in the archipelago, but as pointed out earlier, today this control is somewhat more fragmented. It has gradually made sense not to treat Svalbard specially for administrative purposes beyond the areas where this special treatment is necessary.
The Ministry of Justice and the Police has a particular responsibility for coordinating the central administration’s polar affairs. One of the most important policy instruments in the Ministry’s work is the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs, cf. Instructions for dealing with polar affairs and for the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs (Committee on Polar Affairs Instructions) were laid down by the Royal Decree of 18 October 2002. The Committee on Polar Affairs is a coordinating and consultative body for the central administration’s dealings with polar affairs and is to be a special advisory body to the Government as well in such matters. The fact that polar matters are submitted to the Committee on Polar Affairs does not change the decision-making authority of the ministry concerned and the appropriate minister’s constitutional responsibility for the decision. For more on the Interministerial Committee on Polar Affairs, see section 6.2.1.
4.3.4 The Governor of Svalbard
The Governor of Svalbard is the Government’s highest-ranking representative in the archipelago and one of the most important players in the local administrative apparatus in Svalbard and in managing the state’s interests. In addition to administering Norwegian Svalbard policy and safeguarding Norway’s rights and obligations under the Svalbard Treaty, the Governor has a key role in setting the agenda for Norwegian policy in the archipelago. Consistent and effective enforcement on the part of the Governor is a key element of Norway’s compliance with requirements under international law regarding the archipelago, and not only with regard to the Svalbard Treaty, but also the Convention on Biological Diversity etc. Inspections and compliance monitoring are important instruments for enforcing rules over which the Governor is granted authority and in that way exercise authority effectively. For that reason it is important for the Governor to represent a decisive and capable organisation that is able to be present anywhere in the archipelago when the need arises.
The Governor’s core duties consist of search and rescue and emergency response efforts in the archipelago, responsibility for the police and prosecuting authority as well as environmental management. Svalbard is Norway’s largest police district in area, and the Governor has the same authority as a chief of police on the mainland. In virtue of being chief of police, the Governor is the head of the Rescue Sub Centre (RSC). Furthermore, in virtue of his authority as a county governor, the Governor has the coordinating responsibility for civil protection and contingency planning in the archipelago. The Governor is also an important government resource for emergency responses to oil spills in the archipelago, cf. Chap. 11.
The Governor has the responsibility for local environmental and cultural heritage management for the entire archipelago and discharges this through the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act and its accompanying regulations and other legislation.
The population growth in Longyearbyen and a trend whereby more and more laws are applied to the archipelago have led to an increase in the Governor’s duties in both scope and complexity. This is not least because the interest in Svalbard and the High North is increasing rapidly among national as well as international players, i.e. policymakers, business interests, scientific communities and the media. This is generating an increasing need for the Norwegian authorities to be present in the field, play a supervisory role and enforce rules. In addition, the formulation and introduction of new laws and regulations must constantly be assessed. With this increasing attention there is also a greater influx of various official and private delegations to the archipelago. For that reason it is important that in his administrative practices the Governor meets the high level of ambition that the Norwegian authorities have for Svalbard in areas such as research, knowledge and environmental protection. The Government wants the Governor to enhance his role as the Government’s highest-ranking representative and in setting the agenda for Norwegian policy in the archipelago. For a more detailed discussion of the Governor of Svalbard, see Chap. 6 Administration.
4.3.5 Public finances
The Svalbard budget is submitted by the Ministry of Justice and the Police as a separate budget proposition at the same time as the national budget. Article 8 second paragraph of the Svalbard Treaty provides that taxes, dues and duties are to be devoted exclusively to Svalbard and are not to exceed what is required for the object in view in the archipelago. This is the reason for a separate Svalbard budget. The Svalbard budget provides overall information on all expenditure and revenue in the archipelago. The Government believes that the overall presentation is an important tool in administering Svalbard and gives the Storting an excellent overview of developments in the archipelago.
The Svalbard budget has grown substantially in the past decade, and the 2009 budget calls for total expenditure of NOK 231.7 million. This increase reflects the commitment to the High North and the general increase in activity in the archipelago. Expenditures continue to exceed revenues in the budget, and an annual allocation from Chap. 480 of the Ministry of Justice helps to cover the shortfall. At the same time, the increase in activity in the archipelago is generating higher tax revenues.
The Svalbard budget is largely an operating budget, where the biggest transfers pertain to the Governor’s administration and transport (including helicopters and service vessel), the central government’s buildings in Longyearbyen (Statsbygg) as well as grants to the Longyearbyen Community Council. The remaining transfers largely concern the operation of various state agencies. In the aggregate, the local community in Longyearbyen is substantially funded by government transfers. These transfers mean that the central authorities have considerable power by issuing guidelines for agency operation.
The Svalbard budget also provides a total overview of expenditure and revenue in other ministries’ budget chapters. For example, substantial funds go for the operation of the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Longyearbyen Hospital and the Norwegian Polar Institute, which are all key players in implementing Norwegian Svalbard policy. For 2009 a net amount of just under NOK 400 million in all will be appropriated through the national budget for various Svalbard purposes, which not only gives central authorities a responsibility for maintaining a firm commitment to the archipelago but also helps to guide developments in a direction that accords with the overriding objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy.
Persons and companies have enjoyed favourable economic conditions in Svalbard. Lower income tax rates than on the mainland have been used as an instrument and incentive to ensure settlement and create and maintain activity. As part of the tax reform on the mainland, the Government also reviewed the tax regime in Svalbard, cf. section 4.2.3. It is important for the Government that the tax regime in Svalbard maintain low tax rates, while it should be simple and tailored to conditions in the archipelago. Furthermore, the system is to be based on solutions that ensure a competitive environment for investment and business enterprise in Svalbard, which will help to ensure a robust Norwegian community.
4.3.6 State ownership
The state owns approximately 95 per cent of all land in Svalbard. As the largest landowner the state can regulate activities in the archipelago within the framework set by the Svalbard Treaty, the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act and other laws and regulations. Active exercise of the role of landowner involves managing the land in accordance with the authorities’ overriding objectives and performance of private law functions appertaining to the property owner.
The mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS (called Store Norske or SNSK) owns the land inside Longyearbyen’s land-use planning area, while the Longyearbyen Community Council is responsible for the infrastructure in this area, cf. Sections 31 and 33 of the Svalbard Act. To guarantee the Community Council’s rights on SNSK property, an agreement has been concluded between the Council and SNSK. The agreement provides the Council with instruments to ensure that its planning decisions are carried out and to ensure local development for the good of the individual and for the Longyearbyen community.
The State Ownership Report states that one of the objects of SNSK is to contribute to a robust community in Longyearbyen. This agreement will be reviewed to see whether it adequately addresses the needs of local democracy going forward and whether it continues to support the main objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy.
As shareholder the state controls the mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS with a 99.94 per cent stake, as well as Kings Bay AS, Bjørnøen AS and Universitetssenteret på Svalbard AS (UNIS), all wholly-owned state limited companies. The Ministry of Trade and Industry manages the state’s shares in SNSK, Kings Bay AS and Bjørnøen AS, while the Ministry of Education and Research manages the state’s holdings in UNIS. The Ministry of Health and Care Services owns Longyearbyen Hospital, in that the hospital is a department of the University Hospital of Northern Norway Trust.
The Government requires that Store Norske’s mining operations be on commercial terms and independent of state aid. At the same time, the company’s objects clause states that the company’s activities are to contribute to the maintenance and further development of the community in Longyearbyen in a manner that supports the overriding objectives of Norwegian policy towards Svalbard. Ownership is managed according to the principles of proper ownership approved by the Storting though its debate on Report No. 13 (2006 – 2007) to the Storting, An Active and Long-term State Ownership, and generally accepted principles of corporate governance.
The Government has a long-term perspective on its ownership stake and does not want to reduce it. The same applies to the state’s holdings in Kings Bay AS and Bjørnøen AS.
Universitetssenteret på Svalbard AS (UNIS) was founded in 2002 and replaced the University Courses in Svalbard foundation, which was founded by the four Norwegian universities in 1994. UNIS receives most of its appropriation over the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research. The establishment of UNIS has been a success, and today the university centre is vital for ensuring stable settlement in Longyearbyen.
Kings Bay AS provides support services in Ny-Ålesund for research and scientific activity and helps to develop Ny-Ålesund as an international Arctic scientific research station. The company, which receives its entire appropriation through the budget of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is a key player in reaching the objective of further developing Svalbard and Ny-Ålesund as a platform for international polar research. The Ministry of Trade and Industry manages the holding in Bjørnøen AS. On Bjørnøya there is a weather station; otherwise most of the island is protected as a nature reserve.
SvalSat is owned by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), in which the state has a 50 per cent stake. It is the world’s northernmost station for downloading satellite data and currently has 16 employees and turnover of over NOK 100 million per year. SvalSat is a world leader in downloading data from weather satellites in polar orbits.
4.3.7 Local administration by the Longyearbyen Community Council
As mentioned above, in 2002 the Longyearbyen Community Council, a popularly elected body, was established. The Community Council has a substantially broader area of responsibility than its predecessor, the Svalbard Council, in exercising authority in selected areas, in responsibility for providing public services and for development tasks. An important area assigned to the Longyearbyen Community Council is responsibility for social infrastructure not assigned to the state or other parties, including energy supply. The establishment of the Longyearbyen Community Council has resulted in an exercise of authority better tailored to circumstances and an administration similar to municipal government administration on the mainland with regard to legitimacy, authority and responsibility. The Community Council receives its appropriation from the Ministry of Justice and the Police through the Svalbard budget. This is primarily a block grant, but certain guidelines are provided through the letter of allocation and other contact between local and central authorities.
Since the establishment of the Community Council, central authorities have been keen on developing a close dialogue with it. This pertains primarily to the Ministry of Justice, on account of the ministry’s role as coordinating body for the central administration’s polar affairs. Regular contact meetings are also held between the Minister of Justice and the Community Council. In addition, at regular intervals the Council meets in Svalbard with various Storting Standing Committees. The Ministry of Justice sees great value in this dialogue, to keep itself briefed on local challenges, but also to communicate central government policy and expectations to local authorities. These discussions make clear the importance of the role of local democracy. In the same way that local self-government is regarded to be the best and most effective way of organising local communities in the rest of Norway, it also provides a proper framework for Longyearbyen. For that reason the Government will underscore the importance of having established local democracy in Longyearbyen.