100 years with the Svalbard Treaty

SvalbardLONGYEARBYEN.Svalbard.Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix


A hundred years ago, Norway signed the agreement that guarantees sovereignty on Svalbard. Since then, it has been important to keep the activity up on the archipelago.

The treaty was signed on February 9, 1920 and states that Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard.

But it also states that people from other countries have the free right to go there, hunt, fish and do business.

For this very reason, it has been important for Norway to keep up the Norwegian activity on the archipelago, including through the mining activities.

Ups and downs
In addition, Svalbard has been a strategic destination for the royal family, prime ministers and foreign ministers, often with visitors from far and near.

The last hundred years have offered ups and downs. Sometimes the archipelago has gained attention because of tragic accidents, such as the Kings Bay accident in 1962, in which 21 people lost their lives.

At other times, it is the spectacular nature, the strategic location or the environmental situation that has put Svalbard on the map.

Russian discontent
“Svalbard is very important for Norway, especially considering what the vast ocean areas offer in connection with fishing,” says senior researcher Andreas Østhagen at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute to NRK.

“Svalbard is also located in between Russia and North America and is strategically important if a conflict should arise,” he says.

Russia earlier this week expressed its dissatisfaction with the way in which Norway manages parts of the Svalbard Treaty, particularly related to Norwegian restrictions on Russian helicopter use, as well as the fishing zone and the protected areas.

“We will not reduce our presence on Svalbard. On the contrary, we have long-term plans to strengthen it,” wrote Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a letter to his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Søreide (H).

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that they have received the inquiry and stated that they are considering how the letter will be answered.

Norway must be present
“The letter from Russia is a repeat, and it is not the first time the Russians have reacted to Norway regarding Svalbard,” says researcher Geir Hønneland at the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute (NUPI).

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today


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