Press release | Date: 24/06/2021| No: 120
Government proposes a mandatory residency period of three years in a Norwegian municipality (kommune) for non-Norwegian citizens in order to be eligible for suffrage and standing for election for Longyearbyen Community Council.
Since the introduction of local democracy in 2002, Longyearbyen in Svalbard has been organised in accordance with the same model of governance as other Norwegian local communities. Longyearbyen is Norway’s northernmost local community, and attachment to the mainland in local government is important. At the time of introducing local government, it was stated that the framework conditions for the selected governance model would be considered in light of societal developments.
– The demographic composition in Longyearbyen has changed since 2002. In order to maintain the attachment between the mainland and Svalbard for the members of the Community Council, the Government proposes certain revisions to the rules related to suffrage and electability, states Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland.
The objectives in Svalbard policy provide distinct framework conditions for the local community in Longyearbyen, along with the relatively low levels of taxation and the absence of immigration legislation. These conditions provide the premises for developmental trends in society. These are further reflected in the level of the publicly funded welfare services provided locally, and in other circumstances and structures present which differentiate Longyearbyen from similar local communities on the mainland.
A key objective in Svalbard policy is to maintain Norwegian communities in Svalbard. This objective is met through the local community in Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is not a life-course community, however it remains a vibrant community where the quality of life is favourable for families. Each year significant funds are transferred from the mainland economy to Svalbard through the national budget in order to facilitate various welfare services, such as schooling and nurseries, cultural services and infrastructure. These are principally administered locally, by Longyearbyen Community Council
The introduction of local democracy in 2002 was a natural consequence of developmental trends leading away from the former company-town model. The intention was to provide Longyearbyen with the same governance model utilised in other Norwegian local communities. Most of the residents in Longyearbyen at the time had an attachment to a municipality (kommune) on the mainland, however this has changed and is no longer as common. In recent years there has been a considerable influx of people to Longyearbyen directly from abroad, and there is now a large number of inhabitants present without the above mentioned attachment to the Norwegian mainland.
– These developmental trends have necessitated an assessment of wether the framework for suffrage and electability to the Community Council established at one point in time remain appropriate. Following a thorough review, the Government now proposes the introduction of a mandatory period of three years of residence in a Norwegian municipality (kommune) for non-Norwegian citizens in order to be eligible for suffrage and standing for election for Longyearbyen Community Council, states Mæland.
The purpose of the Community Council is to ensure a rational and efficient administration of common interests within the well-established framework of Norwegian Svalbard policy. The Community Council thus administers interests of national value. Attachment to the mainland ensures proficient knowledge of these prerequisites, as well as of the Norwegian language, culture and society in general, states Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland.
– Additionally, the Government proposes the period of mainland residency in order to qualify for electability, as this ensures that a potential candidate will have contributed to the financing of the services offered in Longyearbyen through taxation rendered. The Community Council does not hold a local tax authority, and public welfare in Longyearbyen is largely financed through the national budget, states the Minister.
The proposal will now go to public consultation before a second assessment precedes the final decision to revise the rules is made by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.
Consultation deadline is October 25, 2021