Høringssvar fra Marion Prudhon

Dato: 25.10.2021

These new rules concerns only fastboende from Longyearbyen, for the local council. Therefore, foreigners who have been living in LYB for more than 3 years (following the current law) are people who have made this place their home, who are involved in the community, who care about it and want it to function well.

This is more than some Norwegians (or foreigners but they can't vote) who come here for a year to enjoy the place and leave again, without any knowledge or respect for it, without a thought for those who are left behind with their mess. Those have no interest in the life here, vote what they would on the mainland without any clue of the specifics of this town. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to revoke the civic rights from foreigners who are staying, know the place and vote because their choices are what they will live with. There is a fundamental lack of logic there, and it would leave the long term Norwegian decide at the same level as the short term ones, without the support of the long term foreigners, for a community that would get upside down quickly when rulers leave the island.

About the fear that foreigners, especially Russians or Chinese would 'take over' the local council: this is ridiculous. First, people from Barentsburg are not citizens of Longyearbyen and cannot vote here. Second, few Norwegian newcomers make it to the debate after 3 years, because this place takes time to accept new people, to respect and trust them. How could a few foreigners come here, blend in fast enough, even more get trusted, so that people actually elect them with enough votes that they could actually weight much in the decisions? And if we are thinking about bringing also their electorate, how would they get enough housing and jobs for all of them? Let alone that, after those 3 years in a western place with civil rights, they would need to remain faithful to their original country to enforce politics that insults those rights.

From experience and meetings, Russians and Chinese who want to stay here are escaping their country and will NOT enforce any of it's politics, they are the most against it.

Besides, the decisions made by LL are not of huge importance in the geopolitical scene, since all is decided in Oslo. But they are of great importance for the people living here. It is the only thing where we still can have some choice and weight, for our local life.

Revoking these civic rights to foreigners who have been living here sometime for decades, doing the lower jobs for lower wages that Norwegians don't want, is outrageous. It means bringing back Longyearbyen to a town with third rank inhabitants, who would not even be citizens but slaves with no right to express themselves and poorly if even represented in the debate. This is exactly what Barentsburg is. But Longyearbyen is not a company town anymore and citizenship means something here as in the rest of Norway. Are you actually wanting to take away our citizenship and make Longyearbyen a totalitarian town where foreigners are treated the same as in Russia? Because if Russia is Norway's model to run an Arctic settlement, then this is very disappointing from a country that is supposed to be among the best democracies.

Finally, this is undoubtedly a breach of the Treaty signed in 1920, as by essence, it would create a huge discrimination between inhabitants of Longyearbyen. It was always a split community and it has it's flaws, like the fact that in reality, we don't have much power anyway and that it is almost always the same people taking decisions locally. But this means taking away the very hope or belief that we have some power at all.

Honestly, during the last years, many actions and decisions were taken to avoided 'presumably possible problems' with foreigners, without considering what those foreigners were actually thinking. We are for Svalbard because it is our home, therefore on the side of Norway, but by pushing it so much, we may change our mind and embrace the behaviours that you want to avoid and that would not even come to our mind before. By depriving us from those basic civic rights, you transform Norway into a unacceptable tyran that is the opposite of the image you want to have, on top of it, on a territory that is given to you at the condition that there would be no discrimination. This is counterproductive for your image, for protecting your sovereignty on Svalbard and for getting the local foreigners' support that you had until now.

I hope you will understand that we are not a threat but a wheel on the cart and cannot be treated with so much lack of decency.

From a Swiss Longyearbyen citizen (or so I see myself)