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Strong faith in a solution

City Mayor Christin Kristoffersen (Ap) is hoping for a good solution, but minister of Justice Anders Anunden (Frp) says the situasjon is challenging. Here they are togheter with Kjerstin Askholt from the Ministry of Justice and Public security and Arild Olsen, union stewart and local politician. FOTO: Eirik Palm

Strong faith in a solution

'But we should not pretend that this is not a challenge.'

Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Anders Anundsen (Frp) went straight into meetings with local politicians and other government officials when he landed in Longyearbyen on Tuesday.

Has faith

Anundsen said he believes the attitude of the local community and the community council offers reason for optimism, and he believes Longyearbyen will get through the crisis.
"But I do not think we should pretend that this is not a challenge for the local community, because that it is absolutely," he told Svalbardposten.

Anundsen said he did not come with any promises, but he noted there is a majority in Parliament that supports ensuring Longyearbyen remains a robust family community. The Ministry of Justice, responsible for governmental oversight of Svalbard, is the facilitator of that policy.

"So it's important to have both a comprehensive picture of what can be done and ensure that the various ministries with an ownership interest in the activities in Longyearbyen take it seriously," he said.

The community council is preparing for a decline in population as a result of the cuts. One out of every four children have a parent who works at the coal company. Twenty-five percent of Longyearbyen's residents come from countries other than Norway.

"I don't think it is unavoidable that we will notice this," said Mayor Christin Kristoffersen (Ap). "So there it is my fervent hope that we will notice it as little as possible."

Translated by Mark Sabbatini

She said she firmly believes the local community will get through the crisis.

"We must now manage to find a willingness and ability to develop for the short- and long-term, where people are feeling safe that they will continue to be here."
Kristoffersen said she feels there is a will in the government and in Parliament to establish development, and protect the community and Norway's position in the Arctic.

'Crucial prerequisite'

How serious is a depopulation of Svalbard for Norway?

"We'll probably find that it at least in the short term will be a decline," Anundsen said. "So we need as the government to be clear about the importance of maintaining a presence, and that we are. It is important that we have a strong Longyearbyen and strong Svalbard communities."

Is the government prepared for the possibility of fewer Norwegians in Svalbard?

"When the changes Store Norske have submitted become a reality, it will be at least in the short term that we see a decline," Anundsen said. "But it is a goal to maintain the settlement, for that is crucial for offering the services that provide the opportunity to have a robust family community."

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