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SWISS APPOINT SVALBARD’S FIRST ‘HONORARY’ CONSUL: Marcel Schütz, a tour operator critical of Norway’s recent policy for foreigners, named first-ever such diplomat in Arctic

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Photo Marcel Schütz, right, discussing his new appointment as Switzerland’s first honorary consul in Svalbard, by Michael Wenger

Marcel Schütz is among those recently questioning the Norwegian government’s approach to policy regarding foreign residents in Svalbard, but his importance from his homeland’s perspective made history this week as Switzerland appointed him the first local honorary Swiss consul during a ceremony in Longyearbyen.

Switzerland, an observer on the Arctic Council since 2017, appointed the tour company operator who has lived in Longyearbyen for the past 12 years because “his long-standing presence on the archipelago and his profound knowledge of Svalbard’s situation have made him the ideal representative,” according to Bernard Jaggy, Swiss Ambassador to Norway and Iceland.

“Because of Switzerland’s large research activities on Svalbard, it is very important for us to have someone here who can help, who can work with the governor,” Jaggy said during the ceremony at Funken Lodge. “First and foremost, Marcel Schütz will assist his ambassador on the ground, but he will also serve as a point of contact for Swiss researchers.”

Schütz has strenuously and publicly voiced objections to recent government actions involving Covid-related help he alleges was unfair to non-Norwegian owned tourism businesses such as his. regarding Svalbard. Among the dignataries at the ceremony was Svalbard Gov. Lars Fause, appointed by one of the ministries Schütz filed a legal complaint with, but as the area’s top adminstrator rather than politician the governor was laudatory toward the new diplomat.

“In all practical purposes, I welcome a good cooperation with you, Honorary Consul Schütz,” Fause said.

The title of “consul” isn’t unique in Svalbard, as Russia has for many years had a Consul General representing its residents and settlements in the archipelago (the current appointee, Sergey Gushkin, was at the ceremony). But Schütz’s appointment is the only other diplomatic representation in Svalbard and the first in any high Arctic region with the honorary designation.

Until now, the Honorary Consul of Switzerland in Tromsø was responsible for Svalbard, according to the Swiss Embassy.

“This situation was not ideal for intervening in crisis situations or supporting Switzerland’s interests in this remote region,” Jaggy told PolarJournal. “We count around 3,000 overnight stays by Swiss citizens on this archipelago every year. Most of these are researchers or adventure tourists. That’s where things can happen, and where the support of an honorary consul is valuable.”

 

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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