Government of Svalbard: Wikis


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Politics and government of

Governor: Per Sefland
See also:
Politics of Norway

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This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of

Other countries · Atlas
Politics portal

The Spitsbergen Treaty recognizes Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard. However, there are restrictions to Norway's rule in Svalbard as explained below in the Spitsbergen Treaty.


Treaties and Acts


Spitsbergen Treaty

Svalbard began as a territory free of a nation, with multiple people from different countries participating in industries including fishing, whaling, mining, tourism, and research. Having no nation left Svalbard largely free of any regulations or laws, though there were conflicts over the area due to whaling rights and issues of sovereignty between The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Denmark-Norway in the first half of the seventeenth century. However, by the twentieth century mine deposits were found in Svalbard and continual conflicts between miners and owners created a need for a government. By 9 February 1920 the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris during the Versailles negotiations after World War I. In this treaty, international diplomacy recognized Norwegian sovereignty (the Norwegian administration went in effect by 1925) as well as other principles relating to Svalbard. This includes:

  • Svalbard is part of Norway: Svalbard is completely controlled and part of the Kingdom of Norway. However, Norway's power over Svalbard is restricted to limitations listed below
  • Taxation: This allows taxes to be collected, but only enough to support Svalbard and the Svalbard government. This results in lower taxes than mainland Norway and the exclusion of any taxes on Svalbard supporting Norway directly. Also, Svalbard's revenues and expenses are separately budgeted from mainland Norway.
  • Environmental conservation: Norway must respect and preserve the Svalbard environment
  • Non-discrimination: All citizens and all companies of every nation under the treaty are allowed to become residents and to have access to Svalbard including the right to fish, hunt or undertake any kind of maritime, industrial, mining or trade activity. The residents of Svalbard must follow Norwegian law though Norwegian authority cannot discriminate or favor any residents of a certain nationality.
  • Military restrictions: Article 9 prohibits naval bases and fortifications and also the use of Svalbard for war-like purposes. It is, however, not entirely demilitarized.


The following 39 countries are participating in the treaty: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the USA and, Venezuela.

Because citizens of various other countries have rights to exploit mineral deposits and other natural resources "on a footing of absolute equality", a permanent Russian settlement was established up at Barentsburg. Another Russian settlement at Pyramiden was abandoned by 2000. At one time, the Russian (or Soviet) population of Svalbard considerably exceeded the Norwegian population, although this no longer applies.

Svalbard Act

The Svalbard Act of 17 June 1925, made Svalbard officially part of Norway. Norwegian civil, penal, execution and court procedural law was given application on Svalbard. Other statuatory provisions, such as administrative law are not given effect for Svalbard unless expressly specified. The act also specifies the organization of the Svalbard administration as well as ownership over land on the archipelago. The act did not specify a particular date for entering into force, which was left to the King to decide. It was decided on 7 August 1925 that the act should enter into force when Norway officially took control of Svalbard, which was 14 August 1925.

Svalbard Environmental Protection Act

The Svalbard environmental Protection Act came into effect on 1 July 2002. The act includes area protection, species management (such as flora and fauna), waste disposal, land use plans, pollution, human artefacts, traffic as well as cabins.

Schengen area

Norway is part of the Schengen area, meaning there is no passport check for travellers to other Schengen countries and a common Visa policy for visitors from outside areas. But Svalbard is not a part of the Schengen Area, because of the special rules about who can settle here. This means that a passport or a Nordic ID card has to be shown when travelling to Norway.

Governor of Svalbard

The governor of Svalbard (or sysselmann in Norwegian) represents the Norwegian government in exercising its limited sovereign authority over the archipelago. The governor reports to the Norwegian ministry of justice, but it maintains all Norwegian interests in the area, including environmental protection, law enforcement, representation, mediation, and matters related to marriage, divorce, etc. A major role of the governor is to maintain healthy relations with Barentsburg, the Russian community.

The governor's office controls multiple helicopters, snowscooters, speedboats, and other equipment needed to meet its responsibilities. Norwegian Storting determines the office's annual budget (about NOK 60 million). Most of it is used for transportation.




A list of major governor tasks. The following was taken from Svalbard's main government website.

Main Tasks

  • To uphold Norwegian Sovereignty
  • To look after and coordinate the interests of the state
  • To apply himself for the good of Svalbard as a whole

Department of Environment

  • To survey and monitor the environment
  • To ensure that environmental principles are adhered to in plans for land use, construction and commercial activity
  • To manage protected areas
  • To manage game and fish resources
  • To manage outdoor recreation, tourism and traffic in the wilds
  • To handle pollution issues and waste management
  • To update records and studies of human artefacts
  • To administer the upkeep of memorials
  • To control import and export of animals
  • To coordinate veterinary services


  • Investigation
  • Traffic restriction at sea and on land
  • Airport surveillance
  • Preventive measures
  • Renewal of driving licences
  • Maintenance of public order
  • The issuing of passports
  • Rescue services
  • Oil pollution services
  • Upkeep of motor vehicles records
  • Maritime authority
  • Traffic control
  • Legal enforcement
  • The issuing of firearms permits


  • That of licensing divorces and marriages
  • Parent mediation
  • The solemnising of marriages
  • Prosecution in criminal cases
  • The functions of Notary Public
  • The provision of legal advice
  • Board of Health tasks
  • Fire prevention
  • Information
  • Representation

Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches

Executive, legislative, and judicial branches of Svalbard is that of (the rest of) Norway, which Svalbard is a part. The Norwegian legal system consists of customary law, civil law system, and common law traditions. The courts include the Supreme Court (Høyesterett) with 17 permanent judges and a president, courts of appeal (court of second instance in most cases), city and county courts (court of first instance in most cases), and conciliation councils (court of first instance in petty cases). Court judges are appointed by the King in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice. High Court of the Realm (Riksrett) can impeach government and Supreme Court members though most of its significance was lost after 1884. As for legislative, Svalbard is represented by a governor (noted above), and Svalbard's executive branch is controlled by that of Norway's. The executive branch consists of:

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
King Harald V 17 January 1991
Crown Prince Haakon Magnus
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg DNA 17 October, 2005
Other government parties SV, Sp 17 October, 2005

External links


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