The Norwegian government announced it would investigate purchasing land around a fjord in Svalbard, after Chinese interests made moves to secure the property. Trade and Industry Minister Monica Mæland said the government would work to secure the Austre Adventfjord for the public.
Billionaire Chinese businessman Huang Nubo, who has shown interest in similar purchases in Iceland and northern Norway’s Lyngen Alps, confirmed last week he was working to purchase the property. “I will build a holiday village for the Chinese,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I am the only bidder.” Nubo has also sponsored a range of cultural events, including NOK 10 million for the Bergen art museum as part of a deal to return Chinese artefacts.
When the land in Svalbard was put up for sale by the Bergen-based Horn family in April, the former Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete urged the government to step in. “It does not just concern resources, but strategic ownership,” she said. “This is an area we must maintain sovereignty over.”
“The government has decided to work towards a solution involving the state overtaking Austre Adventfjord,” said Mæland in a press release on Thursday. “It is completely natural and correct for the state to commit to taking over the property. Through public ownership and Norwegian law, we have the best starting point for managing Svalbard for the common good. The Attorney General is also involved in the work.”
The move came despite Norway’s recent political measures to improve relations with China, including the refusal by government politicians to officially receive the Dalai Lama during his Oslo visit earlier this month.