Government of Norway

03/04/2023 | Press release | Archived content

Norwegian Government apologises to Sámi reindeer herders on the Fosen peninsula

The Norwegian Government has apologised to the Sámi reindeer herders on the Fosen peninsula, acknowledging that the licences to build and operate wind farms in the area have a substantive negative impact on their ability to enjoy their own culture, and thus are a violation of human rights. This is a response to the Supreme Court's finding that the licensing decisions made in 2013 did not include satisfactory mitigating measures to prevent a violation of human rights.

Last Thursday, Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland and Minister of Agriculture and Food Sandra Borch met some of the Sámi reindeer herders from the Fosen peninsula and representatives of the Reindeer Herders' Association of Norway, and apologised to them on behalf of the Norwegian Government. In addition, the ministers met Silje Karine Muotka, President of the Sámediggi (Sámi parliament). Mr Aasland repeated his apology at this meeting.

'The Fosen reindeer herders have been dealing with a difficult and unresolved situation for a long time. This is regrettable, and I have therefore apologised about the licensing conditions, which entail a violation of human rights because they have a substantive negative impact on the ability of the Sámi reindeer herders to enjoy their own culture,' said Mr Aasland.

In 2013, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy issued licences under the Energy Act to build and operate several wind farms on the Fosen peninsula and in the Snillfjord area. In 2021, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that the licensing decisions for the Storheia and Roan wind farms were invalid because they violate the right of the Sámi reindeer herders to enjoy their own culture. The grounds for this conclusion were that the licences did not include satisfactory mitigating measures. The Government is now working on solutions that can safeguard Sámi rights. The matter must be thoroughly assessed again to provide an up-to-date knowledge base for future decisions to ensure that any decisions taken remain valid over time.

Immediately after the Supreme Court ruled on this matter, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy started the process of finding a new solution, and the wind power companies submitted input to the process in February 2022. Since then, there have been several rounds of consultations with the reindeer herders and the Sámediggi, but as yet no decision has been made on how the assessment is to be organised.

'The Supreme Court has concluded that the licensing decisions are invalid. This means that we must reach new decisions that safeguard Sámi rights. The Supreme Court did not specify what should happen to the wind turbines. We have been working on solutions to this since autumn 2021, and it is unfortunate that so much time has passed without a solution being found. We need to make progress on this issue as quickly as possible,' said Mr Aasland.

'What we do will depend on the conclusions drawn from the new assessment. The aim is to find a solution that upholds the rights of the reindeer herders. Several ministries are working closely together on this. We are not ruling anything out,' said Mr Aasland.