Meld. St. 32 (2015–2016)

Svalbard — Meld. St. 32 (2015–2016) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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1 Summary

1.1 A predictable Svalbard policy

In the past, comprehensive white papers on Svalbard have been presented approximately every 10 years. The white papers have each contributed to guiding the archipelago’s development for a number of years, and the comprehensive review process has contributed to balanced development within the framework established by the Svalbard policy objectives.

The overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy are:

  • Consistent and firm enforcement of sovereignty

  • Proper observance to 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

With this white paper, the Government confirms that the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy remain unchanged. Continuity and predictability will remain key aspects of the policy. Predictable administration of Svalbard in line with these objectives provides security for the population while enhancing stability and predictability in the region.

One of the key objectives of the Svalbard policy is the maintenance of Norwegian communities in the archipelago. This objective has been met in large part through the Longyearbyen community. Coal mining, traditionally of great importance to the community, has declined in significance in recent years, partly because many mining employees have been commuting between Svea and the mainland. Moreover, the challenging market for the coal business has led to a scale-back in operations. Provision will be made to suspend operations at Svea and Lunckefjellgruva for up to three years, starting in 2017, and there is considerable uncertainty as to whether operations will resume. Other forms of activity have grown, however, within such fields as research and higher education, tourism, space-related activity and others.

In this white paper the Government seeks to accommodate a variety of activities, both existing and new. Longyearbyen will in future remain a viable local community that is attractive to families. The community’s character, breadth of activity and variation must support the objective of maintaining Norwegian communities in the archipelago. At the same time, Longyearbyen is suffering the effects of the avalanche that struck the community on 19 December 2015. The disaster mobilised the entire community, and a major effort was undertaken to save lives and care for everyone affected. The avalanche heightened the urgency of working to free up land in the central community for residential use. A coordinated, climate-appropriate approach to land-use planning in Longyearbyen will have positive effects for the Longyearbyen community while facilitating desirable economic development.

The Government therefore wishes to use this white paper to facilitate further development of the Longyearbyen community. In the estimated accounts for the 2015 central government budget, the Storting approved a proposal by the Government to allocate NOK 50 million to encourage greater activity in Longyearbyen in both the short and the long terms. After the proposal was made to suspend operations at Svea and Lunckefjellgruva and introduce double shifts at Mine 7, the Government has also continued to provide for Longyearbyen’s maintenance, development and restructuring in a way supportive of the overriding objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy. This measure, combined with the other measures announced in this report, should contribute to the continued viability of the community.

The Government will in any case continually assess the need for measures to help ensure that the Longyearbyen community develops in accordance with the Svalbard policy, including the objective of maintaining Norwegian communities in the archipelago. The avalanche disaster has also shown that the necessity of ensuring that Svalbard’s infrastructure can accommodate the present level of activity outweighs the introduction of new activities that might trigger large investment needs.

1.2 Contents of each chapter

Chapters 2–4 provide a general introduction to the chapters whose policy focus is defined by sector; they also describe historical, legal and administrative matters pertaining to Svalbard. The main policy thrust of these chapters is an affirmation that the overriding objectives of Svalbard policy remain unchanged. The Svalbard policy will continue to be characterised by continuity and predictability.

The background for this white paper is described in detail in Chapter 2, and the international legal framework is reviewed in Chapter 3. The key objectives of the Svalbard policy, the policy instruments available to the state to achieve these objectives and the administrative system are the subject of Chapter 4.

Chapter 5 describes principles applicable to legislation relating to Svalbard. The chapter states, among other things, that the legal framework applied in Svalbard should be as similar as possible to that of the mainland, and it describes the status of the introduction of legislation not previously put into application. The chapter also deals with areas of law that are especially important to community development. It provides a discussion of additional legislative work within the field of business and company law and of the need to clarify parts of the Longyearbyen Community Council’s framework of commitments in childhood and welfare policy.

A major topic in this white paper is the further development of the Longyearbyen community. This is covered in Chapter 6.

One of the objectives of the Svalbard policy is maintaining Norwegian communities in the archipelago. This objective is pursued through the community of families in Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is not a ‘cradle to grave’ community, and there are clear limits to the services that should be made available. Within these limits – which are reflected by the archipelago’s low level of taxation and the fact that the Norwegian Immigration Act does not apply here – the Government wants Longyearbyen to remain a viable local community that is attractive to families and helps to achieve and sustain the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy.

Tourism is important for employment in Longyearbyen, and the Government will facilitate more local jobs in this industry. Steps will be taken to make Longyearbyen and the areas surrounding inhabitated locations (Management Area 10) more attractive for tourism. In addition, the allocation to Innovation Norway in 2015 will strengthen the foundations of a wide-ranging and diverse business community in the long term.

The allocation to preparations for a suspension of operations at Svea and Lunckefjellgruva improves the restructuring framework. The option is retained to continue operations at these sites if coal prices suggest profitability. Meanwhile, the allocation to the Longyearbyen Community Council in the estimated accounts for the 2015 central government budget will bolster infrastructure maintenance in Longyearbyen while creating jobs in the construction sector.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) is currently working on a conceptual study that will form the basis for further work to develop new port infrastructure in Longyearbyen. Strong national interests are tied to ownership in this type of infrastructure. When the study is complete, the Government will address the way ahead in developing Longyearbyen’s port infrastructure.

The Government is not inclined to facilitate the establishment of activities that require substantial infrastructure investment, but will support community development in Longyearbyen that entails developing the economy in line with Svalbard policy objectives. Relocation of public sector jobs to Longyearbyen will also be considered.

Environmental protection is discussed in Chapter 7. Preservation of Svalbard’s natural environment is a long-term policy objective, and preserving the archipelago’s distinctive natural wilderness is one of the overriding objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy. Svalbard’s natural and cultural heritage is important internationally, and Norway has a special responsibility to preserve it.

At a time when restructuring and new industries and activities are needed in Longyearbyen, tourism, research and higher education stand out as obvious activities for expansion. Environmental regulations and environmental objectives determine the frameworks of all activity in Svalbard. Within these frameworks, however, there is latitude for additional activity related to tourism, research and higher education. It is important that such opportunities be pursued in a way that provides sound, predictable framework conditions for the activity in question. In dialogue with the relevant actors in Svalbard, the environmental authorities will now take coordinated action to better facilitate tourism in the zone known as Management Area 10, which includes the Isfjorden area and areas surrounding the inhabitated locations. With this in mind, an early phase of this work will be initiated as soon as possible, ensuring a comprehensive approach to both the construction of new commercial tourist cabins and the use of temporary facilities for the tourism industry in winter. The same applies to accommodating vessel disembarkation at selected locations in the Isfjorden area and better framework conditions for non-motorised tourism products such as ski and dogsled trips.

The Government is committed to comprehensive management frameworks in which different types of traffic and activity are seen in context, both within and outside of Svalbard’s protected areas. This is a necessary approach if the travel industry and the research community are to enjoy predictable framework conditions without causing undue impact on the natural environment. To achieve such comprehensive management, the Government will continue work on management plans for the protected areas in Svalbard. These plans will facilitate activity in accordance with the purpose and provisions of the environmental protections. An important objective is also to adapt management procedures to the rapid changes in climatic and environmental conditions that Svalbard is facing. For the sake of users and the environment alike, it is important to act comprehensively in the management of the areas surrounding inhabitated locations where activity and traffic are expected to increase the most. In Management Area 10, therefore, management plans will be drawn up that include both protected and unprotected areas.

Knowledge, research and higher education are the topic of Chapter 8. Svalbard is an important platform for Norwegian and international research, higher education and environmental monitoring. Research and instruction are of major importance to Norwegian activity and presence in Svalbard. The Government will develop an overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard.

The research community in Ny-Ålesund will be further developed as a platform for international scientific collaboration in which Norway has a clear role as host and will lead relevant areas of research. To help foster such development, changes will be made to the organisation and operation of Ny-Ålesund’s research activities.

Chapter 9 of the white paper concerns economic activity. It is important that the business community’s value creation occur within the overall objectives and frameworks of the Svalbard policy. Responsible and sustainable use of Svalbard’s unique natural environment is an important condition for restructuring and investing in economic development.

To help bring about an economic boost in Svalbard, the estimated accounts for 2015 facilitated a strengthening of development in the business community. The funds provided will help reinforce economic development efforts undertaken by the Longyearbyen Community Council, the Svalbard Business Council and the range of national instruments supporting business and industry. Innovation Norway’s long experience with regional restructuring and promoting economic development will be called upon to boost economic development efforts in Svalbard. A forward-looking strategy for business and innovation will also be devised. Based on recent experience and on Svalbard’s position as a unique and exciting destination, the opportunities for developing new jobs in tourism are thought to be particularly promising. The Government will provide framework conditions for sustainable growth in the tourism industry.

Svalbard’s geographical location is also ideal for space activity, including atmospheric research and satellite data reception. The Government is concerned that Norwegian actors in the space sector should take full advantage of Svalbard’s location and capacities, which provide competitive advantages in space-related science, innovation and economic development.

Chapter 10 deals with civil protection, rescue and emergency preparedness. The chapter describes how civil protection and emergency response efforts are organised in Svalbard, including the roles and responsibilities involved. It also provides a discussion of available resources and specific challenges that require attention.

It is important to the Government that people feel secure where they live and in the community at large. The Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning, assisted by the Norwegian Police University College and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, will carry out an assessment in the aftermath of the avalanche that struck Longyearbyen on 19 December 2015. Any findings will be followed up by the Government in an appropriate manner. In 2016, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) will prioritise surveys of flood and avalanche dangers in Svalbard. NVE has also completed a pilot avalanche-warning project, which will be evaluated in 2016 and followed up in consultation with the Longyearbyen Community Council.

Emergency preparedness should correspond to the activities occurring in the archipelago, and the question of scale will be assessed continually. Responding to large or simultaneous events will in any case require assistance from the mainland. To improve safety at sea, efforts will be undertaken to ensure effective implementation of the Polar Code. Work will also continue on the charting of important maritime areas around Svalbard, and land-based AIS stations will be established in Svalbard to ensure more effective traffic monitoring. Other navigation infrastructure in Svalbard will also be modernised.

1.3 Full overview of measures

The Government will:

  • Seek to maintain Longyearbyen as a viable local community that attracts families and helps fulfil and support the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy.

  • Further develop the Longyearbyen community, where the need for various types of development is under continual assessment.

  • Facilitate continued development of existing activities such as tourism, research and higher education, as well as broad and varied economic activity.

  • Facilitate employment and restructuring in Longyearbyen, using funds provided in the estimated accounts for 2015.

  • Strengthen economic development efforts under the auspices of the Longyearbyen Community Council and relevant national policy instruments in cooperation with existing business interests in Longyearbyen, using funds provided in the estimated accounts for 2015.

  • Facilitate further development of existing and new industries within the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy.

  • Facilitate conditions for the development of a more diversified business community. Preferably, the new jobs should be stable, year-round and commercially profitable.

  • Facilitate development of a new, forward-looking business and innovation strategy for Svalbard.

  • Continuously assess the need for restructuring and economic development measures that support the Svalbard policy objectives.

  • Facilitate the possibility of maintaining some activity in Svea during a restructuring period for Longyearbyen, while the mining operations in Svea and Lunckefjell are suspended.

  • Assess the situation for continued operations by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani AS (SNSK) in light of developments in the price and market outlook for coal.

  • Administer ownership in SNSK so that it contributes to Longyearbyen’s community in a way that supports the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy.

  • Assess future development and activity in Svea in light of the state’s role as landowner and infrastructure owner.

  • Continue efforts to facilitate development of sound infrastructure in Svalbard, including energy and water supply.

  • Strengthen the Longyearbyen community by increasing funding for housing and land development in Longyearbyen by NOK 10 million.

  • Decide on further work to develop port infrastructure in Longyearbyen once the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s conceptual study is completed.

  • Ensure sound, predictable framework conditions that provide a basis for growth in the tourism industry, by facilitating development of tourism products.

  • In close consultation with tourism operators, take coordinated action to better facilitate tourism in Management Area 10, which includes the Isfjorden area and areas surrounding the inhabitated locations.

  • Ensure a comprehensive and environmentally responsible approach to the construction of commercial tourist cabins and the use of temporary facilities for tourism in winter.

  • Improve knowledge about the Isfjorden area’s vulnerability to human traffic, and on that basis consider measures to facilitate vessel disembarkation at selected locations.

  • Improve the framework for non-motorised tourism products such as ski and dogsled trips.

  • Facilitate conditions for the seafood industry in connection with local food and tourism.

  • Facilitate opportunities for the Northern Norway Art Museum to consider establishing an artist residence/guest studio for visiting artists.

  • Further develop Visit Svalbard as a developer of tourism in Svalbard, and Visit Svalbard’s coordinating role in the tourism industry.

  • Consider facilitating closer contact between the Governor of Svalbard and the local tourism community by redirecting resources for this purpose.

  • Consider relocating public sector jobs to Svalbard to help achieve the objective of maintaining Norwegian communities in the archipelago.

  • Facilitate space activity as part of the future economic base in Svalbard.

  • Assess the need and possibility of a satellite-based communications system in the High North.

  • Revise the regulations governing the establishment and operation of satellite ground stations in Svalbard.

  • Continue work on management plans that facilitate further development of activities such as tourism, research and higher education. Ensure that management plans are drawn up for areas surrounding the inhabitated locations (Management Area 10), including both protected and unprotected areas. Ensure that use of the protected areas is facilitated and managed in such a way as to permit the best possible visitor experience while at the same time increasing respect and understanding for the protections and safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage assets.

  • Facilitate in finding solutions for areas that are becoming more vulnerable to human traffic as a result of a warmer climate and retreating sea ice. The environmental management authorities have circulated for public consultation a proposal to expand the area where visitors can operate snowmobiles when participating in organised tours or when accompanied by permanent residents. Secure natural assets and cultural heritage sites located near inhabitated locations and important for tourism, recreation and the local population. To this end, work will be initiated to assess the need for greater protection of areas in lower Adventdalen, where bird life is especially abundant.

  • Maintain and develop the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) as a unique institution for university-level studies and research on Svalbard, with a range of academic programmes and research activities that capitalise on the natural advantages of the location. Facilitate further cooperation between UNIS and mainland universities to make the most of UNIS’s potential, to satisfy the requirement that 50 per cent of students come from Norwegian institutions, and to improve predictability for both UNIS and the universities.

  • Continue the focus on polar research and the special emphasis on Svalbard research, in order to help strengthen the volume and quality of Norwegian research in Svalbard.

  • Consider possible measures to encourage Norwegian scientists to take advantage of the research opportunities available in Ny-Ålesund.

  • Facilitate increased international cooperation through bilateral and multilateral arrangements. Horizon 2020 also advertises funding for Arctic research. The general policy instruments available through the Research Council of Norway, including those that encourage Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020, will contribute to this.

  • Conduct a review of research on Svalbard and consider how policy instruments can be directed with even greater effect towards both increasing Norwegian Svalbard research and encouraging the international research community to cite such research.

  • Develop an overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for preparing a strategy proposal on the basis of a wide-ranging process. Central government authorities, the Governor of Svalbard, the business community and all research and higher education organisations in Svalbard will be involved. The Research Council will also have primary responsibility for evaluating the strategy’s implementation.

  • Facilitate formal establishment of the Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) in 2016. As the host of SIOS, Norway will help cover a significant share of the expenses. The participating institutions are also expected to contribute through membership fees and other resources.

  • Further develop the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) and the Research Council of Norway’s office in Longyearbyen. Objectives, tasks and roles will be updated in a new revision of the mandate. The Research Council’s stimulus funding and support programmes related to SSF will be designed in line with the priorities in the strategy.

  • Strengthen coordination in Ny-Ålesund through the development of a research strategy for Ny-Ålesund by spring 2017. The research strategy for Ny-Ålesund should be seen in the context of the overall strategy for research and higher education in Svalbard and should support Norway’s role as host and its research policy in Svalbard. The Research Council of Norway will have responsibility for drawing up a strategy in cooperation with the relevant actors, research bodies and ministries.

  • Give the Norwegian Polar Institute responsibility for operational implementation and monitoring of the research strategy in Ny-Ålesund. In order to appropriately follow up the strategy activities in Ny-Ålesund, regular dialogue will be established between the Research Council, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kings Bay and the ministries involved.

  • Transfer responsibility for managing the state’s ownership of Kings Bay AS from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment with effect from 1 January 2017. The purpose is to coordinate implementation of the research strategy with operation and development of Ny-Ålesund. Responsibility for managing the state’s ownership of Bjørnøen AS, which is administratively subordinate to Kings Bay AS, will also be transferred simultaneously from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

  • Continuously assess emergency preparedness in Svalbard in light of the activities carried out in the archipelago and changes in risk level.

  • Respond appropriately to any findings by the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning in its assessment following the avalanche on 19 December 2015.

  • Survey flood and avalanche risks in Longyearbyen in 2016, through the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.

  • Work nationally and internationally to ensure effective implementation of the regulations on sailing in polar regions (the Polar Code).

  • Continually assess measures to reduce the risk of undesirable maritime transport incidents in Svalbard.

  • Continue the work of charting important maritime areas around Svalbard.

  • Work towards establishing good communication systems for the northern marine areas.

  • Further develop and modernise Svalbard’s existing navigation infrastructure to optimise risk reduction and lower operating and maintenance costs.

  • Develop land-based AIS base stations in the busiest areas of Svalbard to strengthen maritime traffic monitoring.

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