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Home → October, 2023

Monthly Archives: October 2023 − News


Dri­ving licen­ses: tem­po­ra­ry appr­oval exten­ded

The “dri­ving licen­se issue” did and does still worry a lot of for­eign (non-Nor­we­gi­an) locals in Lon­gye­ar­by­en who need their dri­ving licen­se for work and pri­va­te life: for for­mal reasons, cer­tain non-Nor­we­gi­an dri­ving licen­ses are not reco­g­nis­ed, inclu­ding (but not limi­t­ed to) Thai and US-ame­ri­can dri­ving licen­ses. Both resi­dents and tou­rists are con­cer­ned. Visi­tors may, for exam­p­le, have a pro­blem if they wish to dri­ve a car or snow mobi­le.

driving license Longyearbyen

Dri­ving a car in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: some may have to take a seat in the back.

Now the Sys­sel­mes­ter has announ­ced to extend a tem­po­ra­ry appr­oval of dri­ving licen­ses in ques­ti­on until March 31, 2024. Mean­while, Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are try­ing to find a per­ma­nent solu­ti­on.

Nor­we­gi­an sta­te buys housing space in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment wants more con­trol on the ground in Sval­bard. This has beco­me umist­aka­b­ly clear through a ran­ge of poli­ti­cal pro­jects, inclu­ding the ongo­ing dis­cus­sion about limi­ta­ti­ons of public access to lar­ge parts of Sval­bard and the with­dra­wal of local voting rights for for­eig­ners.

Housing is ano­ther important issue in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The housing mar­ket is dif­fi­cult, and indi­vi­du­als wit­hout strong eco­no­mics expe­ri­ence serious dif­fi­cul­ties when try­ing to find a place to live. In con­trast to else­whe­re, you can’t just move a cou­ple of miles out of town and com­mu­te by bus. Major employ­ers own living space to make sure their employees can actual­ly live in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

housebuilding Elvesletta Longyearbyen

House­buil­ding in cen­tral loca­ti­on in Elves­let­ta, Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Many of Longyearbyen’s lar­ger employ­ers are public, eit­her direct­ly or indi­rect­ly. That includes Sys­sel­mes­ter, the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (inclu­ding school, kin­der­gar­ten, hos­pi­tal, …), Store Nor­ske (the mining com­pa­ny), UNIS etc. Some of them own housing space, and in other cases flats are owned and admi­nis­te­red by Stats­bygg, a public aut­ho­ri­ty that does exact­ly that: owning, run­ning and deve­lo­ping pro­per­ty on behalf of the govern­ment for public insti­tu­ti­ons and sta­te-owned com­pa­nies.

Stats­bygg does alre­a­dy have a major num­ber of flats in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This num­ber is now to grow signi­fi­cant­ly: as Sval­bard­pos­ten wro­te, Stats­bygg will invest 173 mil­lio­nen kro­ner (curr­ent­ly slight­ly under 15 mil­li­on Euro) in housing spaces. The who­le block of Elves­let­ta 2 and 3, which is curr­ent­ly under con­s­truc­tion, is con­cer­ned, with a total of 27 flats.

In return, Stats­bygg will release an equi­va­lent num­ber of flats that are owned by Store Nor­ske. In con­trast to Stats­bygg, Store Nor­ske can offer them to ever­y­bo­dy on the housing mar­ket, inclu­ding pri­va­te indi­vi­du­als. But also Store Nor­ske is owned by the govern­ment, which can thus con­trol who can live in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and who can not live the­re.

Visi­tors to Lon­gye­ar­by­en will quick­ly get the impres­si­on that the place is gro­wing mad­ly by means of the lar­ge con­s­truc­tion sites. But this impres­si­on is mis­lea­ding, becau­se a lar­ge num­ber of flats were also lost during and after the cata­stro­phic ava­lan­che of 2015. This loss of living space is obvious­ly less appa­rent.

The new dou­ble calen­dar “Spits­ber­gen & Nor­way 2024” is available

The new dou­ble calen­dar “Spits­ber­gen & Nor­way 2024” is available! 24 pages for the new year, a dou­ble calen­dar – pho­to­gra­phic beau­ty of nor­t­hern land­scapes, wild­life and flowers on the wall, chan­ging every months (twice if you want) throug­hout the year 😃

“Dou­ble calen­dar” means that both sides of each page are used. You can turn the calen­dar around to the other image. The calen­dar is available in two sizes, lar­ge (A3) and small (A5). And if you order more than one per size, then the pri­ce will drop by 3 Euro per copy 🤩 Christ­mas is not far any­mo­re – the ide­al pre­sent for all arc­tic enthu­si­asts! 🎄🎅🎁 as long as stocks last!

Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on inclu­ding views of all pages and orde­ring.

Out­break of avi­an flu on Hopen

The­re was a major out­break of avi­an flu, also known as bird flu, on the remo­te island Hopen in sou­the­ast Sval­bard, as Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te Hall­vard Strøm told the Nor­we­gi­an media plat­form NRK. Seve­ral thousand birds are belie­ved to have died on Hopen from avi­an flu, main­ly kit­ti­wa­kes.

Hopen

Cliffs with major bird colo­nies on Hopen.

The­re have been simi­lar, even lar­ger out­breaks of avi­an flue in sea­bird colo­nies in north Nor­way. In some cases, the los­ses were dra­ma­tic and major frac­tions of the colo­nies were wiped out. In Spits­ber­gen, avi­an flu was found for the first time in 2002, but the recent out­break on Hopen is the lar­gest one so far.

Local elec­tions: the result

All votes from Monday’s local elec­tions are coun­ted and the result is offi­ci­al. The com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re), estab­lished in 2002, has 15 seats, and accor­ding to the offi­ci­al result, the par­ty “Venst­re” will have 7 of them. Hence, Venst­re will most likely lead the new Lokals­ty­re and appoint the mayor. Venst­re (“Left”) is a social libe­ral par­ty.

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, elections 2023

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re: the new com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil was elec­ted on Mon­day
– for the first time, under exclu­si­on of non-Nor­we­gi­an locals.

As a result, for the first time in the histo­ry of Lokals­ty­re, the social demo­cra­tic Arbei­der­par­ti (Labour par­ty) will not appoint the mayor any­mo­re. Arbei­der­par­tiet will have 3 seats in the new com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil. The left-social-demo­cra­tic Sosia­lis­tisk Venst­re­par­ti will also have 3 seats, while the con­ser­va­ti­ve Høy­re (“Right”) will have 2.

1420 per­sons were eli­gi­ble to vote, and 808 made of of this right, resul­ting in a voter turn­out of 56.9 %. During the pre­vious elec­tions, the­re were 1823 eli­gi­ble voters, but seve­ral hundred locals with pass­ports other than Nor­we­gi­an have lost their voting rights due to the new regu­la­ti­ons. Some Nor­we­gi­an voters had announ­ced to not vote or to sub­mit inva­lid bal­lot papers, of which the­re were 54.

Citi­zens wit­hout voting rights: press release of the “unwan­ted for­eig­ners”

Zur heu­ti­gen Kom­mu­nal­wahl in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, bei der etwa ein Drit­tel der frü­her Stimm­be­rech­tig­ten ihr Stimm­recht auf­grund der Natio­na­li­tät ver­lo­ren hat, gab die Grup­pe “unwan­ted for­eig­ners” fol­gen­de Pres­se­mel­dung her­aus (deut­sche Über­set­zung vom Inha­ber die­ser Sei­te). Sie bezieht sich auf eine Aus­stel­lung in der unmit­tel­ba­ren Umge­bung des Wahl­lo­kals, bei der die nicht mehr demo­kra­tisch reprä­sen­tier­ten Bür­ge­rin­nen und Bür­ger Lon­gye­ar­by­ens ihren Fuß­ab­druck in der Gesell­schaft sym­bo­lisch sicht­bar machen wol­len.

Today, Lon­gye­ar­by­en votes a new local coun­cil, but about one third of the for­mer voters have lost their voting rights becau­se they are for­eig­ners. The group “unwan­ted for­eig­ners” have issued the fol­lo­wing text as a press release (Eng­lish trans­la­ti­on from Nor­we­gi­an by the owner of this web­site).

Press release: Longyearbyen’s “unwan­ted for­eig­ners”

Local elec­tions in Lon­gye­ar­by­en today – a pain­ful day for non-Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens. They have lost their voting rights.
During ear­lier local elec­tions, non-Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens could vote as soon as they had lived in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for at least three years – just as in main­land Nor­way.

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, community council elections 2023

Exhi­bi­ti­on of sym­bo­lic foot­prints of citi­zens who lost their voting rights in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
Pho­to: Chris­tia­ne Hüb­ner. Click here for a high-reso­lu­ti­on ver­si­on of this image.

With the new regu­la­ti­ons, most of them have lost their demo­cra­tic rights.

Today, local elec­tions are being held in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – many locals who have lived in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and con­tri­bu­ted to the com­mu­ni­ty and eco­no­my for years are now excluded. They are repre­sen­ted in silence, as appro­pria­te for tho­se who have lost their voice
Here are some of their foot­prints in the com­mu­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en:

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, community council elections 2023

Sym­bo­lic foot­prints of for­eig­ners who have lost their voting rights Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
Pho­to: Chris­tia­ne Hüb­ner. Click here for a high-reso­lu­ti­on ver­si­on of this image.

  • I have been making your food sin­ce 2017
  • 9 years on the island. Have a Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny with 5 employees
  • Local for 15 years – I have voting rights in Trond­heim but no lon­ger here!
  • 19 years on Sval­bards. Will res­cue you from a snow ava­lan­che
  • 21 years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Elec­ted mem­ber of the local coun­cil
  • Owner of a com­pa­ny and mem­ber of the gui­de asso­cia­ti­on
  • 3 years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Scan­di­na­vi­an citi­zen. :o(
  • 4 years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – local gui­de
  • Will res­cue you from a crev­as­se
  • Have never befo­re felt that it was „you“ and „us“ befo­re
  • 8 years on the island. Will repair your clo­thes. Own a Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny with 3 employees
  • We are Lon­gye­ar­by­en
  • I will make sure that you have a good din­ner after your mara­thon
  • Grew up in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Have lear­nt Nor­we­gi­an values at school
  • Stood for the elec­tions last time. 16 years Sval­bard. Oslo thinks that I know less about Sval­bards poli­tics than a fresh gra­dua­te of Sval­bard fol­kehøgs­ko­le
  • Sámi, women, for­eig­ners – we have been through all of that. Voting rights for ever­y­bo­dy!
  • 20 years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – work­ed for UNIS, NP, sci­ence coun­cil
  • 3 years on the island with my fami­ly – working in cus­to­mer ser­vice and vol­un­t­a­ri­ly
  • 20 years on Sval­bard. 20 years in local com­pa­nies. Love Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the peo­p­le who live here. Voting rights for ever­y­bo­dy
  • Grew up in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Went to Nor­we­gi­an school in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Speak Nor­we­gi­an well. But not a part of this com­mu­ni­ty
  • 12 years for no say
  • Nor­we­gi­an guy – 9 years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. No point in voting any­mo­re
  • 7 years on the island. Run a recy­cling work­shop as a vol­un­teer, lead Sval­bard Gui­de Asso­cia­ti­on & work as a gui­de year round. Work­ed for UNIS
  • Vol­un­teer sin­ce 2017. Clea­ned Sval­bard from pla­s­tic, Red Cross, Sval­bard sports club
  • 5,5 years on the island. Con­tri­bu­ted to the local com­mu­ni­ty, now con­side­red wort­hl­ess
  • 12 years on the island – washing your house
  • 7 years on Sval­bard – Sval­bard – gui­de + local busi­ness owner – working with 15 local com­pa­nies + others on main­land. Con­tri­bu­ting direct­ly into the Nor­we­gi­an eco­no­my… but we still don’t real­ly count?
  • 7 years on Sval­bard – gui­de + logi­stics mana­ger Polar X – pre­vious­ly voted! We make the docu­men­ta­ries that influence the world’s view of Sval­bard + our wild­life … but we’re not important enough to influence our local poli­tics
  • Who else is gon­na have the pati­ence to ser­ve Nor­we­gi­ans their drinks…
  • Lon­gye­ar­by­en is my home
  • 10 years on Sval­bard – Only here doing cri­ti­cal work for the sta­te! I have fri­ends who died! for the right to vote. Nor­way is no bet­ter than Rus­sia
  • 8 years on Sval­bard. 2.5 years on main­land. PROUD CANA­DI­AN. Essen­ti­al worker 4 Nor­way. Your ‘demo­cra­cy’ is a joke… our lives are not. Shame on you
  • 29 years on Sval­bard. I felt wel­co­me when I came here then
  • 11 years of sci­ence and tea­ching arc­tic eco­lo­gy
  • Demo­cra­cy is a thing to stand for
  • It meant some­thing to con­tri­bu­te to the reno­va­ti­on of Nor­dens­ki­oldhyt­ta during the pan­de­mic
  • Mine worker
  • Sval­bard: cor­ner­stone of my life in 26 years. And now sud­den­ly second class citi­zen
  • 1 year on the island. UNIS stu­dent and mem­ber of the gui­de asso­cia­ti­on
  • 6 years on the island. Can res­cue you from a snow ava­lan­che
  • It gives me plea­su­re to con­tri­bu­te to the deve­lo­p­ment of Lon­gye­ar­by­en after the coal age
  • 12 years on the island and could vote pre­vious­ly. In 17 years, my son can vote, hop­eful­ly tog­e­ther with me
  • Proud­ness is best in com­mu­ni­ty, not natio­na­li­ty

Chris­tia­ne Hüb­ner and Wolf­gang Hüb­ner-Zach also lost their voting rights and initia­ted the exhi­bi­ti­on. The quo­ta­ti­ons are from locals who are now left wit­hout voting rights.

Local elec­tions in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Today (Mon­day, 09 Octo­ber) local elec­tions are held in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: for the 8th time sin­ce local demo­cra­cy was estab­lished in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in 2002, eli­gi­ble voters can deci­de on Longyearbyen’s poli­ti­cal deve­lo­p­ment.

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, local elections 2023

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re: local elec­tions are held today, 09 Octo­ber – for the first time exclu­ding for­eign locals.

For a start, the local elec­tions are about local poli­tics as usu­al: traf­fic within and out­side of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, health inclu­ding ani­mal health, the housing mar­ket, port deve­lo­p­ment, eco­no­my, cul­tu­re, school, ener­gy, envi­ron­ment. Such things.

But next to all of that, the elec­tions them­sel­ves have beco­me an issue. As repor­ted pre­vious­ly, Nor­we­gi­an minis­ter of jus­ti­ce Emi­lie Mehl (Sen­ter­par­ti) has by decree dis­pos­s­es­sed for­eig­ners of their acti­ve and pas­si­ve voting rights: locals with non-Nor­we­gi­an pass­ports can only vote or run for office if they have spent at least three years in a com­mu­ni­ty on the Nor­we­gi­an main­land and if they have moved direct­ly from the­re to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re are tho­se who have lived in main­land Nor­way for more than three years and now live in Lon­gye­ar­by­en but who have lost the­re voting rights becau­se they have lived else­whe­re bet­ween main­land Nor­way and Lon­gye­ar­by­en. “Else­whe­re” may even be Ny-Åle­sund, a place whe­re the Nor­we­gi­an flagg is flown with pri­de. The­re is at least one such case.

The new voting sys­tem did come by decree and not by low, which means that it has not been dis­cus­sed by the Nor­we­gi­an par­lia­ment (Stort­ing).

All four par­ties that now con­test in Lon­gye­ar­by­en want this to be dis­cus­sed again on a natio­nal level, and at least two out of the­se four want the decree to be rol­led back. But it is the govern­ment in Oslo who deci­des on this. The fifth local­ly acti­ve par­ty, the Nor­we­gi­an green par­ty (Mil­jø­par­ti de Grøn­ne, MdG) with­drew from the cur­rent elec­tions becau­se they do not have enough con­di­da­tes wit­hout their non-Nor­we­gi­an mem­bers.

Con­cer­ned for­eig­ners have joint forces at least loo­se­ly under the group name “unwan­ted for­eig­ners”, try­ing to get seen and heard on a poli­ti­cal level. The­re are seve­ral hundred of them, some­thing near one third of tho­se who were eli­gi­ble to vote on pre­vious occa­si­ons. Many of them have been living in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for many years, some grew up the­re and some have child­ren who visit kin­der­gar­ten and school the­re now. Pret­ty much all of them feel like second-class citi­zens now.

Cloud­ber­ry found in Coles­da­len

The news sec­tion on this web­site has been a bit negle­c­ted the last cou­ple of months. This is about to chan­ge now, as the tra­vel­ling sea­son is over, during which the­re was a clear focus on the tra­vel blog, for obvious reasons.

Let’s start with a litt­le artic­le about an inte­res­t­ing dis­co­very within bota­ny, which seems harm­less but nevert­hel­ess has a bit of an unp­lea­sant tat­se to it. Cloud­ber­ries were found in Coles­da­len, about 20 km sou­thwest of Lon­gye­ar­by­en – with fruits. The remar­kab­le dis­co­very was made by Stein Tore Peder­sen from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, who was the­re on a pri­va­te tour, as the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te wro­te.

Colesdalen, Spitsbergen

Coles­da­len. It is safe to assu­me that the­re are cloud­ber­ry plants some­whe­re in this pho­to 🙂.

The fruits of the cloud­ber­ry are rich in vit­ami­nes and well known from main­land Scan­di­na­via, whe­re they are very popu­lar. In Spits­ber­gen, cloud­ber­ries were found for the first time around 1908 by bota­nist Han­na Res­voll-Die­set, but this is now the first time that hard evi­dence for fruits could be secu­red. The­re are sto­ries about ear­lier finds of cloud­ber­ry fruits, but in tho­se cases, the evi­dence was quick­ly eaten by the fin­der. Some­thing that is, by the way, not allo­wed: in Spits­ber­gen, all vege­ta­ti­on is gene­ral­ly pro­tec­ted and no plants or parts of plants may be coll­ec­ted. This includes cloud­ber­ry fruits. Only mush­rooms and sea­weed may be coll­ec­ted.

It is assu­med that this first dis­co­very of cloud­ber­ry fruits is con­nec­ted to the record-warm tem­pe­ra­tures of lar­ge parts of the last sum­mer and thus to cli­ma­te chan­ge, which is fas­ter in lar­ge parts of the polar are­as than else­whe­re in the world.

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