Sweden to close its embassy in Colombo: Cost given as reason
Reaction to denial of permission for Bildt’s visit to Colombo?

Sweden has decided to close its Embassy in Colombo, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt announced after his Government reviewed its 2007 development cooperation and decided to end Sweden’s bilateral development assistance to Sri Lanka.

Sweden also decided to close its four Consulate General’s offices in Kaliningrad, Canton, Los Angeles and New York.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said that these measures were necessary to balance the Foreign Affairs Ministry budget and to adapt it to its allocated appropriations.

The Swededish Foreign Ministry said the closure of the Embassy in Colombo would be completed by March 31, 2010 at the latest.

The existing development cooperation agreements will however be seen through to their conclusion.

The Swedish FM said their aim was to be able to open an honourary consulate that in cooperation with the Embassy in New Delhi could provide service to Swedish citizens and companies. It said visa services would be managed within the framework of Schengen cooperation.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt commenting on the closing down of the Embassy and other diplomatic offices said:

"When I took office as Minister for Foreign Affairs in autumn 2006, the Ministry had a budget deficit of over SEK 50 million. The deficit had been built up over several years and the previous government maintained activities that had no financing. Of course it is an untenable position to be pushing this deficit in front of us. We must ensure that we have an effective and professional Foreign Service within the existing budgetary framework. With these changes, we will balance the budget and at the same time renew working methods."

However, it is believed in diplomatic circles that the closing of the embassy is Stockholm’s reaction to Colombo’s denial of permission for Swedish foreign minister Bildt’s visit which was to coincide with those by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in April, when France and Britain made a joint effort to force a ceasefire on Sri Lanka.

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