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Wants more Norwegians on Svalbard

Gudmund Hagesæter, a Progress Party member and state secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, delivered Svalbards new "white paper".

Wants more Norwegians on Svalbard

The government is taking action.

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There are 124 fewer Norwegians and 174 more foreigners in Longyearbyen than four years ago. The new Svalbard "white paper" commits into words the government's commitment to strengthening the Norwegian presence.

"One of the central objectives of Svalbard policy is to maintain Norwegian communities in the archipelago," said Gudmund Hagesæter, a Progress Party member and state secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, which has administrative oversight of Svalbard.

"The proposed white paper emphasizes that Longyearbyen should be an attractive place for Norwegian families. There should be good and secure jobs provided, preferably many small businesses, and it will no longer be a company town."

"Efforts should be made for attractive Norwegian jobs," he added, openly acknowledging a strong Norwegian grip on the area is a deliberate and desirable goal.

Tightening up

"It is important to have a distinct Norwegian presence," said Regina Alexandrov, a Conservative Party member and member of Parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

The increase in the number of foreign nationals in Longyearbyen prompted the government to react. In 2010, it cleared the way for prolonged stays in Svalbard counting toward permanent residency in Norway. Now the white paper is signaling the government is ready to enact another change if necessary.

No citizenship

As of now, foreigners living in Svalbard are not able to obtain Norwegian citizenship.

"Foreign citizens who are born in Svalbard or have a prolonged stay in the archipelago are not granted Norwegian citizenship on this basis alone," the revised white paper notes. "It is not necessary to change these rules."

The document also suggests there should be stricter controls on who travels to and from Svalbard. Passport control at the airport may be a result.

Norwegian passports

A stronger Norwegian presence is also sought at The University Centre in Svalbard. The Ministry of Education and Research allocates annual grants to the institution.

The university's stated intent is at least 50 percent of the students will be Norwegian. UNIS, however, has been uncertain what is the definition of a Norwegian student and therefore has deemed it sufficient if they are enrolled at a Norwegian university.

That will not be sufficient if the new white paper is approved.

"We must use UNIS better," said Bjørn Haugstad, state secretary of the education ministry. "The study environment here is unique. It is a wonder we struggle to get 50 percent of students with a Norwegian passport."

Foreign policy

Haugstad said he believes it could be perceived as if more than half of the Norwegian tax money is going to foreign students.

Requiring 50 percent of Norwegian students also has a foreign policy basis, he pointed out during a seminar in Longyearbyen on Wednesday.

Today, 45 percent of UNIS students are from Norwegian universities, but only 23 percent have Norwegian passports.

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