The Karlstad Conference


Sweden was not willing to accept the Storting's decision of 7 June to dissolve the union without further ado. For the Riksdag, it was important to satisfy public opinion, which was demanding compensation for the severance of the union. On 27 July, the Riksdag approved their conditions. Among these conditions were talks to decide the requirements for lawful dissolution of the union. Norway agreed to this, and the talks were held in the Swedish town of Karlstad in the border county Värmland. The most contentious requirement was that Norway would have to agree to a demilitarised zone along the national border in the south. This meant that both historical and new fortresses would have to be demolished within a broad zone. In addition, Sweden wanted to have an agreement that ensured the Swedish reindeer-herding Samis the right to use land on both sides of the border. Other requirements concerned ensuring transit traffic and regulating shared watercourses.

The negotiations were fairly dramatic at times and lasted from 31 August to 23 September, with a breakdown in negotiations from 7 to 13 September. While the talks were in the most critical phase, the military tension was also mounting. In Norway, troops were mobilised when the talks resumed after the breakdown. On 23 September, agreement was reached, partly because both parties had been exposed to a certain amount of pressure from the Great Powers to be willing to give a little. The Treaty of Karlstad was thus a compromise where both parties yielded on some points. In the subsequent debates, the Norwegian government's acceptance of the dismantling of the border defences in particular was perceived as a national betrayal and relinquishing of the newly won Norwegian freedom. Despite stifled resistance from the indignant nationalistic opponents of the agreement, the treaty was endorsed by both the Storting and the Riksdag on 9 and 13 October respectively, ensuring a peaceful outcome to the union conflict.

According to the agreement, the Norwegian border defences were to be demolished within eight months of the signing of the treaty in September. This was done. The demolished defences were inspected by an international commission that finished its work in the middle of June 1906, concluding that the defences had been dismantled in accordance with the Treaty of Karlstad.