Ratifications of the Convention
|Signed||9 February 1920|
|Effective||14 August 1925|
|Condition||ratification by all the signatory Powers|
|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[update], 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.
There were fourteen original High Contracting Parties, including: the United States, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and British overseas dominions of Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand. 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. There are now over 40 parties. The treaty was submitted for registration in the League of Nations Treaty Series on 21 October 1920.
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.
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.
By 9 February 1920 the Spitsbergen Treaty was signed in Paris 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:
- 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
200-nautical-mile (370 km) zone around Svalbard
There has been a long-running dispute, primarily between Norway and Russia (and before it, the Soviet Union) over fishing rights in the region. 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). 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. 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. Finland and Canada support Norway's position, while most of the other treaty signatories have expressed no official position. 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
"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. 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.
A list of parties (sorted alphabetically) is shown below; the dates below reflect when a nation deposited its instrument of ratification or accession. For states that no longer exist, the successor state for which the treaty remains in force is noted.
|Country||Date of ratification|
|Afghanistan||November 23, 1925|
|Albania||April 29, 1930|
|Argentina||May 6, 1927|
|Australia||December 29, 1923
(extension by UK)
|Austria||March 12, 1930|
|Belgium||May 27, 1925|
|Bulgaria||October 20, 1925|
|Canada||December 29, 1923
(extension by UK)
|Chile||December 17, 1928|
|Republic of China||July 1, 1925|
|Czech Republic||June 21, 2006|
|Denmark||January 24, 1924|
|Dominican Republic||February 3, 1927|
|Egypt||September 13, 1925|
|Estonia||April 7, 1930|
|Finland||August 12, 1925|
|France||September 6, 1924|
|Germany||November 16, 1925|
|Greece||October 21, 1925|
|Hungary||October 29, 1927|
|Iceland||May 31, 1994|
|India||December 29, 1923
(extension by UK)
|Italy||August 6, 1924|
|Japan||April 2, 1925|
|North Korea||March 16, 2016|
|Latvia||June 13, 2016|
|Lithuania||January 13, 2013|
|Monaco||June 22, 1925|
|Netherlands||September 3, 1920|
|New Zealand||December 29, 1923
(extension by UK)
|Norway||October 8, 1924|
|Poland||September 2, 1931|
|Portugal||October 24, 1927|
|Romania||July 10, 1925|
|South Korea||September 7, 2012|
|Soviet Union||May 7, 1935|
|Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz||August 14, 1925|
|South Africa||December 29, 1923
(extension by UK)
|Spain||November 12, 1925|
|Sweden||September 15, 1924|
|Switzerland||June 30, 1925|
|Ukrainian SSR||May 7, 1935|
|United Kingdom||December 29, 1923|
|United States||April 2, 1924|
|Venezuela||February 8, 1928|
- 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.
- Original Spitsbergen Treaty
- League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 2, pp. 8-19
- Spitsbergen Treaty and Ratification (in Norwegian)
- Alex G. Oude Elferink (1994). The Law of Maritime Boundary Delimitation: A Case Study of the Russian Federation. Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 230–231.
- Willy Østreng (1986). "Norway in Northern Waters". In Clive Archer & David Scrivener. Northern Waters: Security and Resource Issues. Routledge. pp. 165–167.
- Aftenposten, "USA snuser på Svalbard-olje" by Torbjørn Pedersen, page 14
- Aftenposten, "USA snuser på Svalbard-olje" by Torbjørn Pedersen
- "Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen, including Bear Island". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
- 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.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Treaty between Norway, The United States of America, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland and the British overseas Dominions and Sweden concerning Spitsbergen signed in Paris 9th February 1920. (In Norwegian, English and French; click "Original tekst".)
- Treaty Concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen
- Svalbard Treaty and Ratification (Norwegian)
- Svalbard – an important arena - Speech by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 15 April 2006.