Svalbard Treaty

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Svalbard Treaty
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Ratifications of the treaty
Signed 9 February 1920
Location Paris, France
Effective 14 August 1925
Condition Ratification by all the signatory powers
Parties 45[1]
Depositary Government of the French Republic
Languages French and English
Spitsbergen Treaty at Wikisource

The Svalbard Treaty or the Spitsbergen Treaty, recognises the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, at the time called Spitsbergen. The exercise of sovereignty is, however, subject to certain stipulations, and not all Norwegian law applies. The treaty regulates the demilitarisation of the archipelago. The signatories were given equal rights to engage in commercial activities (mainly coal mining) on the islands. As of 2012, Norway and Russia are making use of this right.

Uniquely, the archipelago is an entirely visa-free zone under the terms of the Svalbard Treaty.[2]

The treaty was signed on 9 February 1920 and submitted for registration in the League of Nations Treaty Series on 21 October 1920.[3] There were 14 original High Contracting Parties, including: the United States, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands,[4] Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (including British overseas dominions of Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand).[5] Several additional nations signed within the next five years before the treaty came into force, including the Soviet Union in 1924 and Germany and China in 1925.

Of the original signatories, Japan was the last to ratify the treaty on 2 August 1925. On 14 August 1925, the treaty came into force.[6] As of 2016, there are 45 parties to the treaty.[1]

History[edit]

The archipelago was discovered by the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596 and named Spitsbergen, meaning "sharp-peaked mountains". It was uninhabited. The islands were renamed in the 1920s by Norway as Svalbard.

Spitsbergen/Svalbard began as a territory free of a nation, with multiple people from different countries participating in industries including fishing, whaling, mining, research and later, tourism. Not belonging to any nation left Svalbard largely free of regulations or laws, though there were conflicts over the area due to whaling rights and issues of sovereignty between England, the Netherlands, and Denmark–Norway in the first half of the 17th century. However, by the 20th century mineral deposits were found on the main island and continual conflicts between miners and owners created a need for a government.

The treaty[edit]

The Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris on 9 February 1920, during the Versailles negotiations after World War I. In this treaty, international diplomacy recognized Norwegian sovereignty (the Norwegian administration went in effect by 1925) and other principles relating to Svalbard. This includes:[5]

  • Svalbard is part of Norway: Svalbard is completely controlled by and forms part of the Kingdom of Norway. However, Norway's power over Svalbard is restricted by the 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 against or favor any residents of any given nationality.
  • Military restrictions: Article 9 prohibits naval bases and fortifications and also the use of Svalbard for war-like purposes. It is not, however, entirely demilitarized.

Disputes regarding natural resources[edit]

200-nautical-mile (370 km) zone around Svalbard[edit]

There has been a long-running dispute, primarily between Norway and Russia (and before it, the Soviet Union) over fishing rights in the region.[7][8] In 1977, Norway established a regulated fishery in a 200-nautical-mile (370 km) zone around Svalbard (though it did not close the zone to foreign access).[7] Norway argues that the treaty's provisions of equal economic access apply only to the islands and their territorial waters (4 nautical miles at the time) but not to the wider Exclusive Economic Zone. In addition, it argues that the continental shelf is a part of mainland Norway's continental shelf and should be governed by the 1958 Continental Shelf Convention.[8] The Soviet Union/Russia disputed and continues to dispute this position and consider the Spitsbergen Treaty to apply to the entire zone. Talks were held in 1978 in Moscow but did not resolve the issue.[7] Finland and Canada support Norway's position, while most of the other treaty signatories have expressed no official position.[7] The relevant parts of the treaty are as follows:

Ships and nationals of all the High Contracting Parties shall enjoy equally the rights of fishing and hunting in the territories specified in Article 1 and in their territorial waters. (from Article 2)

They shall be admitted under the same conditions of equality to the exercise and practice of all maritime, industrial, mining or commercial enterprises both on land and in the territorial waters, and no monopoly shall be established on any account or for any enterprise whatever. (from Article 3)

Natural resources outside the 200-nautical-mile (370 km) zone[edit]

"Mainly the dispute is about whether the Svalbard Treaty also is in effect outside the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea," according to Norway's largest newspaper, Aftenposten.[9] If the treaty comes into effect outside the zone, then Norway will not be able to claim the full 78% of profits of oil- and gas harvesting, said Aftenposten in 2011.[10]

Parties[edit]

A list of parties (sorted alphabetically) is shown below; the dates below reflect when a nation deposited its instrument of ratification or accession.[1][11] Some parties are successor states to the countries that joined the treaty, as noted below.

Country Date of ratification Notes
 Afghanistan 23 November 1925
 Albania 29 April 1930
 Argentina 6 May 1927
 Australia 29 December 1923 Extension by the United Kingdom.
 Austria 12 March 1930
 Belgium 27 May 1925
 Bulgaria 20 October 1925
 Canada 29 December 1923 Extension by the United Kingdom.
 Chile 17 December 1928
 China 1 July 1925 Acceded as the Republic of China. Both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China claim to be the successor or continuing state, but as of 2016 all other parties to the treaty (except the Dominican Republic) recognize only the People's Republic of China.
 Czech Republic 21 June 2006 Czechoslovakia acceded to the treaty on 9 July 1930. On 21 June 2006, the Czech Republic informed that it considered itself bound to the treaty since its independence on 1 January 1993, as a successor state.
 Denmark 24 January 1924 Extension to the entire Danish Realm.
 Dominican Republic 3 February 1927
 Egypt 13 September 1925
 Estonia 7 April 1930
 Finland 12 August 1925
 France 6 September 1924
 Germany 16 November 1925 Acceded as the Weimar Republic. On 21 October 1974, East Germany informed that it also reapplied the treaty since 7 August 1974. East Germany rejoined Germany in 1990.
 Greece 21 October 1925
 Hungary 29 October 1927
 Iceland 31 May 1994
 India 29 December 1923 Extension by the United Kingdom.
 Ireland 29 December 1923 Ireland was part of the United Kingdom when the latter signed the treaty, but it became independent before the treaty was ratified. On 15 April 1976, Ireland informed that it also applied the treaty since its ratification by the United Kingdom.
 Italy 6 August 1924
 Japan 2 April 1925
 Latvia 13 June 2016
 Lithuania 13 January 2013
 Monaco 22 June 1925
 Netherlands 3 September 1920 Extension to the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands.
 New Zealand 29 December 1923 Extension by the United Kingdom.
 North Korea 16 March 2016
 Norway 8 October 1924
 Poland 2 September 1931
 Portugal 24 October 1927
 Romania 10 July 1925
 Russia 7 May 1935 Acceded as the Soviet Union. On 27 January 1992, Russia declared that it continued to apply the treaties concluded by the Soviet Union.
 Saudi Arabia 2 September 1925 Acceded as the Kingdom of Hejaz.
 South Africa 29 December 1923 Extension by the United Kingdom.
 South Korea 11 September 2012
 Spain 12 November 1925
 Sweden 15 September 1924
  Switzerland 30 June 1925
 United Kingdom 29 December 1923 Extension to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. Ireland also applied the treaty since its ratification by the United Kingdom.
 United States 2 April 1924
 Venezuela 8 February 1928

Yugoslavia also acceded to the treaty on 6 July 1925, but as of 2016 none of its successor states have declared to continue application of the treaty.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Treaty recognising the sovereignty of Norway over the Archipelago of Spitsbergen, including Bear Island" (in French). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France (depositary country). 26 June 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Immigrants warmly welcomed, Al Jazeera, 4 July 2006.
  3. ^ League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 2, pp. 8–19
  4. ^ On Dutch interest and historical claims see Muller, Hendrik, ‘Nederland’s historische rechten op Spitsbergen’, Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap 2e serie, deel 34 (1919) no. 1, 94–104.
  5. ^ a b Original Spitsbergen Treaty
  6. ^ Spitsbergen Treaty and Ratification (in Norwegian)
  7. ^ a b c d Alex G. Oude Elferink (1994). The Law of Maritime Boundary Delimitation: A Case Study of the Russian Federation. Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 230–231. 
  8. ^ a b Willy Østreng (1986). "Norway in Northern Waters". In Clive Archer & David Scrivener. Northern Waters: Security and Resource Issues. Routledge. pp. 165–167. 
  9. ^ Aftenposten, "USA snuser på Svalbard-olje" by Torbjørn Pedersen, page 14
  10. ^ Aftenposten, "USA snuser på Svalbard-olje" by Torbjørn Pedersen
  11. ^ "Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen, including Bear Island". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 

Literature[edit]

  • Moe, Arild; Schei, Peter Johan (2005-11-18). "The High North – Challenges and Potentials." (PDF). Prepared for French-Norwegian Seminar at IFRI, Paris, 24 November 2005. Fridtjof Nansen Institute (www.fni.no). Retrieved 2008-08-11. 

External links[edit]