Europe

Svalbard foreign residents lose voting rights

Foreigners living and working in Svalbard, who do not have a legal residence permit in mainland Norway, suddenly lost the right to vote in local elections and were elected to the local government. On Friday, the Norwegian government decided to begin immediately linking Norwegian immigration requirements to the voting rights of the competent Arctic Archipelago.

There is concern that Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest populous area, will change from a company town controlled by the Stornorsk coal company to a company town now controlled by foreign-owned tourism and shipping and cruise line Hurtigruten. It has been swirling for many years. Photo: NewsinEnglish.no/MortenMøst

The Norwegian-controlled Svalbard Treaty allows anyone to move to Svalbard as long as it is financially self-sufficient and does not cause problems for a small community of about 2,500 inhabitants. To date, Norwegian authorities have also allowed everyone in Svalbard to participate in local politics, vote in local elections, and serve as elected representatives.

However, in Norway itself, foreigners are required to obtain a work permit and a residence permit and can only vote in local elections after three years of legal residence. On the other hand, only Norwegian citizens can vote in national elections.

newspaper Svalbard Posten These laws were reported to have been applied to Svalbard by the Norwegian Labor Center Government, which was elected last fall. Justice Minister Emily Engel Mel of the Center Party argued that it was necessary for the local government of Svalbard to “maintain relations with the mainland and ensure sufficient knowledge and understanding of the laws applicable to Svalbard.” ing.

Mehl also acknowledged that Norway wants to maintain an attractive “Norwegian society” for Norwegian families in Svalbard.She is worried about it Svalbard demographics are changing In recent years, especially after most of them Coal mining closed under Pressure from the United Nations When Climate activist..

Many of the people currently living in Svalbard have nothing to do with Norway and have moved to the Arctic islands to work frequently. Controversial tourism-related ventures, And more temporary. “In recent years, quite a few people have moved from abroad to Longyearbyen,” Mehl said. Svalbard Posten.. It may continue, but now they can no longer vote.

Barentsburg is a strategically important hub for Russians in the Svalbard Islands and is the second most populous center after Longyearbyen.Russian Complain regularly Tensions about the management of the Norwegian archipelago, and now with Russia, are higher than they were years ago. Photo: newsinenglish.no

Svalbard is also home to a small number of Russians living in the mining town of Barentsburg and can only be accessed by boat or helicopter from Longyearbyen, the main settlement of Svalbard. It was unclear whether the current tensions with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine were related to the new effective ban on foreign political representatives by the Norwegian government.

The news agency NTB reported that 700 people, about 30% of the population, will be affected by the rule change. Sweden’s Olivia Ericsson is among them. She currently belongs to the local council as the only foreign member and will not be able to run for reelection at the end of her term next year. Nor can she vote.

“It’s a sad day,” she told state broadcaster NRK, wondering if Svalbard really has its own democracy if one-third of Svalbard’s inhabitants do not have a political representative and cannot vote. I saw it. “There is a very small group that represents everyone,” Ericsson said.

She is currently the only foreign citizen on the council. It may indicate that other foreigners were not interested in assuming such responsibilities, but it also means that foreign residents no longer have a political voice.

However, the government emphasized that Svalbard’s local council has no tax authorities and that tax levels are much lower than on the mainland. Norway has invested considerable money from the mainland economy to fund local public services and infrastructure, motivated by the continued desire to increase the population of the Svalbard Islands and bring them under Norwegian control. am sending.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

https://www.newsinenglish.no/2022/06/20/foreigners-in-svalbard-lose-voting-rights/ Svalbard foreign residents lose voting rights

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