Norway and Sweden in quarrel over grazing reindeer

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Norway and Sweden in quarrel over grazing reindeer
File photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix

Reindeer crossing the border between Norway and Sweden have caused conflict between agricultural ministries in the two Scandinavian countries.


Norwegian agricultural minister Jon Georg Dale, an MP with the nationalist Progress Party, said the Swedes “have themselves to thank” for the disagreement.

Dale has broken off an attempt to secure an agreement with Swedish authorities over reindeer moving across the border and will now begin work on legislation to limit the number of animals that migrate over the frontier, reports NRK.

“The challenge is that the number of Swedish reindeer on Norwegian pastures is increasing, whilst we on the Norwegian side must regulate reindeer movement because we have insufficient pasture ground,” Dale told the broadcaster.

The right of Sami people on both sides of the Norway-Sweden border to find land for their reindeer herds in either country has existed for several hundred years, according to the report.

The most recent bilateral agreement on the issue was signed in 1972 but expired as long ago as 2005.

Norwegian and Swedish authorities administrate the area in question using different types of legislation, leading to significant conflict over the issue, writes NRK.

Authorities in Sweden have declined to sign an extension of the existing agreement and have requested that negotiations continue, but Dale claimed that they were deliberately delaying the process.

“It is Sweden that is responsible for us being in this situation,” he told NRK.

The president of Sweden’s Sami Parliament said that Dale “clearly does not have the prerequisites” to understand the situation.

“It concerns me how little ability Norwegian politicians have to understand the rights of Samis on the Norwegian side. [Dale] clearly does not have the prerequisites to understand this,” Per Olof Nutti told NRK.

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Politicians on both sides must take responsibility for no agreement being reached on the issue, he added.

Ellinor Marita Jåma, head of the Norwegian National Reindeer Sami Association (Norske Reindriftsamers Landsforbund), reacted differently to Dale’s statement.

“There are two countries administrating based on different laws. On the Norwegian side we are concerned with ecological sustainability, so I can understand the demands he is making,” she told NRK.

Jåma added that she was disappointed that no deal had been reached.

“[This is] very poor management of an important matter. When two countries cannot agree it is the reindeer that suffer,” she said.

The association chairperson also said that she hoped the Swedish authorities would make concessions on the matter and that ministers in both countries would listen to the recommendations of Sami groups.

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