Photo by The Governor of Svalbard
National authorities are considering revoking voting rights from foreign citizens in Svalbard, increasing environmental protection and introducing stronger requirements for safety in the field, causing many locals to worry about the consequences, according to High North News.
The story of Svalbard is about quick development and the eternal question about what the Norwegian state really wants with the Svalbard community, HNN correspondent Line Nagell Ylvisåker wrote in a longform feature published Friday. She notes that in the 1990s Svalbard went from being a company town in which everything was owned by the state-owned mining company Store Norske, to becoming normalized with private enterprises and a family community. The state saw that the Svalbard community cost money and wanted private enterprise to contribute to cover infrastructure and operations.
At the same time, the town was granted local democracy.
“However, the transition project went faster and more powerful than the authorities had envisioned” Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen told HNN. The number of inhabitants has nearly doubled since then – and the ratio of foreign residents has more than doubled since 2009.