Facts about the Svalbard Treaty


Photo: Kari Ostengen / NTB Scanpix
Bjørnøya (Bear Island) is governed by the Svalbard Treaty.

Trans. by Andy Meyer, The Norwegian American

Here are some key facts about the Svalbard Treaty:

  • International agreement, signed Feb. 9, 1920, and enacted Aug. 14, 1925. 
  • It established Norway’s “full and unrestricted jurisdiction” over Svalbard, including Bjørnøya (Bear Island), and that Norwegian laws and regulations shall govern the area.
  • Citizens and companies from all signatory nations have equal rights to access and residence. They shall be able to operate fisheries, hunt and trap, and practice all kinds of economic enterprise under the same conditions. All enterprise is subject to the laws that Norwegian authorities enact, but no enterprise can be treated differently on the grounds of national origin.
  • Taxes and fees that are levied by Norway cannot exceed what is required to cover the cost of the administration of Svalbard.
  • Svalbard is a Norwegian territory; therefore, the North Atlantic Treaty (which established NATO) applies to the archipelago. In peacetime, there can be no military bases in Svalbard. During WWII, there was temporarily a Norwegian garrison stationed on Svalbard.
  • Today, the treaty is ratified by 43 nations.


Source: Governor of Svalbard, Norwegian Department of Defense


This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.