Theater of Cruelty

The Hague next


It is a disgraceful battle now going on around the international Svalbard zone.

The Norwegian Coast Guard's forced towing of a Spanish trawler to Tromsø this week comes just a few weeks after the conflict with a Russian ship that defied Norwegian orders and headed for Murmansk.

Both events should be unnecessary. And here the greatest responsibility rests with the Norwegian authorities. It is not about self-assertion that one is right, but whether one can, with arguments, and not power, justify one's actions towards the world community. It is at this point that Norway has failed.

Norwegian media have naturally been most concerned with the rights of their own nation state. Therefore, it is most natural that Spanish and Russian skippers are the big problem. The Spanish skipper of "Monte Meixueiro" has undeniably committed illegal fishing for halibut. But that does not make the Norwegian handling of the case better.

On Tuesday, Spain's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Elena Espinosa made a formal protest against the Norwegian coastguard in practice arresting two skippers and their ships off Svalbard.

Spain refers to the International Svalbard Treaty of June 9, 1920, which 40 countries from large parts of the world have signed. And according to it, Spain is not without support from a large number of European countries that it is the flag state itself, that is, Spain, which is to be notified and prosecuted the skippers and trawlers that Norway may consider illegal. The Norwegian ambassador to Madrid this week was summoned to the Spanish Foreign Ministry because of the Norwegian authorities' behavior. No other country has so far interpreted the international regulations as Norway.

The Norwegian Coast Guard's solo raid against another country's ship not only seems unprofessional, it is also extremely nationalistic. Disappointingly, the Norwegian public seems merely a hoax for a narrow nationalist perspective in such matters.

Paradoxically, this is happening in the most international of all waters Norway has self-declared interests in. According to the Svalbard Treaty, all signature powers, such as Japan, South Africa and India, have "absolutely the same right" as Norway to exploit natural resources and fish and hunting ”in the area, as it is called in Article 2 Nevertheless, Norway perceives and acts as if Svalbard and the surrounding areas are something typically Norwegian.

But here it is about showing respect for both 85 year old agreements and for the rights of others, not just their own. Northern region expert Willy Østreng must be supported here when he calls for a comprehensive agreement with Russia, and later with Spain, in the Barents Sea. Østreng warns that Norway could lose in the Hague Court if Spain makes serious the threat to appeal the case there. That should not diminish the Norwegian desire to wish the case to The Hague. It is clear that the case should go there, since Norway is not able to solve such an initially amicable case in collaboration with other parties.

Reidar Nilsen in the Norwegian Fisheries Association would also like to see the protection zone around Svalbard treated by the Haagdomstolen, because he believes Norway will prevail.

It's just a way to figure it out. Today's conflicts make us all losers. The Hague next.

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