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Home* News and Stories → 100 years Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty

100 years Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty

The Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty was signed exact­ly 100 years ago, on 09 Febru­a­ry 1920, in Ver­sailles. The con­tract secu­red suver­e­ni­ty over the Spits­ber­gen islands but inclu­des several limi­ta­ti­ons. Click here to read more about the trea­ty its­elf on the page dedi­ca­ted to the trea­ty wit­hin this web­site.

Spitzbergenvertrag: Wedel Jarlsberg, Paris 1920

Fre­drik Wedel Jarls­berg, Nor­we­gi­an ambassa­dor in Paris,
signs the trea­ty on 09 Febru­a­ry 1920 in Ver­sailles.

The Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty was nego­tia­ted over several mon­ths in Ver­sailles in 1919. Fre­drik Wedel Jarls­berg was lea­ding the nego­tia­ti­ons on behalf of Nor­way, but others inclu­ding Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen had been part of the poli­ti­cal work that had paved the way to the trea­ty over years.

Today, the trea­ty is often refer­red to as the Sval­bard Trea­ty, but the ori­gi­nal trea­ty text does not inclu­de the word “Sval­bard” at all.

Over­lap­ping pri­va­te ter­ri­to­ri­al by a num­ber of mining com­pa­nies from various coun­tries had to be sor­ted befo­re the trea­ty could enter for­ce. This hap­pen­ed final­ly on 14 August 1925, when the “Sval­bard law” (Sval­bardlo­ven) came into for­ce in Nor­way, tur­ning the trea­ty into natio­nal law.

The trea­ty is still in for­ce. The­re are some dis­pu­tes regar­ding the use of mari­ne resour­ces (fishing, oil, gas, other mine­ral resour­ces) out­side the 12 mile zone, but wit­hin the 200 mile zone around Sval­bard. The con­cept of the­se zones was defi­ned much later and they were not part of the trea­ty, which hence lea­ves room for dif­fe­rent inter­pre­ta­ti­ons, depen­ding on whom you ask. Nor­way claims that the princip­le of non­discri­mi­na­ti­on (equal rights for ever­y­bo­dy regard­less of natio­na­li­ty) is valid only wit­hin the 12-mile zone, but claims exclu­si­ve rights in the 200-mile eco­no­mi­c­al zone (out­side the 12-mile zone). Other coun­tries do not agree, name­ly Lat­via which was up to now the last coun­try that ent­e­red the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty on 13 June 2016 (a few mon­ths after North Korea) and Rus­sia. Russia’s minis­try of for­eign affairs has just recent­ly again released a press note clai­ming to be unhap­py about restric­tions of Rus­si­an acti­vi­ties in Spits­ber­gen and expects Nor­way to accept bila­te­ral talks, some­thing that Nor­way has never accep­ted in the past.

Spitzbergenvertrag: Mitgliedsländer

Signa­to­ry coun­tries in the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty.

Today, 100 years after the trea­ty was signed in Paris on 09 Febru­a­ry 1920, a num­ber of events and lec­tures are dedi­ca­ted to the trea­ty in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Nor­way and other coun­tries.

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (1): Spitz­ber­gen – vom Polar­licht bis zur Mit­ter­nachts­son­ne”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2020-02-09 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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