Newsletter: More Conflicts - and a Success Story

Ellen Katrine Hætta, Finnmark Police Chief, has repeatedly learned that there is a long way from Oslo to Finnmark. Photo: Eskil Wie Furunes, NRK FInnmark

Dear reader! 

There is no lack of news from the High North and the Arctic these days, that’s for sure. Sadly, though, most of them are conflict oriented.

Salmon adventure
That is why I start off this week’s newsletter with a success story from the small island of Kvarøy in Northern Norway, an island with only 100 inhabitants. Here, the Olsen family has produced salmon since 1976. Today, they operate six licenses and have a staff of 23. The company has more than doubled its turnover since 2015 and is currently doing well in the USA. Nor is it random that their efforts aim for the USA rather than other parts of the world. This is where they stand out from the competition.

Breakdown in infrastructure
In Norway, a recent surge in ferry prices along the coast along with rural airline operator Widerøe’s cutting some 4,000 flights on an annual basis, politicians have not wasted any time blaming each other for the current situation.

Our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm refers to it as “a breakdown in North Norwegian infrastructure” and argues that politicians should do far more than just talk about it. “What happens along the Norwegian coast today is a serious system failure. The fact is, whoever one is to blame, that the infrastructure breakdown is a serious violation of the contract between us as users and citizens, and the State, represented by politicians and bureaucrats”, he writes in this week’s Friday op-ed.

Harsh words between good neighbors
Last week, HNN could tell you that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chose to use the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Svalbard Treaty to launch heavy criticism of how Norway manages its sovereignty on the archipelago. Lavrov requested a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Søreide to discuss “Svalbard problems”. Not going to happen, said State Secretary Audun Halvorsen of the Norwegian MFA.

Thursday, another Russian statement was voiced by spokesperson for the Russian MFA; Maria Zakharova: “Norway practically violates the regulations of the Svalbard Treaty and refuses the idea of meeting for bilateral talks about the case”, she said at a press brief.

China wants tea with the chief of the foreign intelligence services
The Russians are not the only ones to be provoked by Norwegian authorities. China’s ambassador to Norway, Yi Xianliang, arguest that the foreign intelligence services’ report ‘Fokus 2020’, which HNN covered last week, is full of factual errors about China’s intentions and activities.

He now invites intelligence chief Morten Haga Lunde to a meeting over tea to clarify misunderstandings.

A long way from Finnmark to Oslo
Ellen Katrine Hætta, Finnmark Police Chief, stated during the Kirkenes Conference last week that when she notified her superiors about GPS jamming against Norway in 2017, there was not response from the National Police Directorate. Only when the issue ended up in the media did Finnmark receive assistance.

Police Chief Hætta also warned about a potential crisis during the lead-up to what was to become the asylum crisis of the autumn 2015, when nearly 5,500 migrants bicycled across the Norwegian-Russian border at Storskog, Finnmark. Then, too, she met a deafening silence at the NPD offices in Oslo. “This tells us that there is a long way from Oslo to Finnmark”, she says in a High North News interview.

Corona in the High North
We also spoke with a doctor and researcher about what would happen if the corona virus were to spread to small communities in the Arctic, with a widely dispersed population and a tight indoor climate.

There are few people and often isolated communities. But if a virus were to enter that community, the indoor climate is so tight that there is a huge risk of contaminating the entire population”, says doctor and researcher Jon Øyvind Odland.

Two killed in avalanche
At the end, some very sad news. Just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, news arrived that an avalanche on the Fridjof Glacier in Nordenskiöld Land National Park near Barentsburg on Svalbard had killed two German citizens. The two were on a tour with the Russian operator Arctic Travel Company Grumant.

Also read: The Russian government has recently supported legislation to cut taxes and introduce incentives for investment into Arctic projects.
We at High North News wish you all the very best for the weekend!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News