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Uproar over rumoured NY consulate closure

TT/David Landes · 22 Apr 2009, 11:29

Published: 22 Apr 2009 11:29 GMT+02:00

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The news first emerged in an April 9th report by Sveriges Radio (SR) detailing several diplomatic facilities under consideration for closure by Sweden’s foreign ministry.

Sweden’s consulates in Los Angeles and Canton, China, as well as embassies in Sri Lanka and Guatemala were also mentioned as targets for closure, according to SR.

New York consulate staff have also received signals from the ministry which they interpret as confirming that the consulate is indeed on the chopping block, according to the TT news agency.

When contacted by The Local, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm refused to confirm or deny the reports, saying only that “discussions are ongoing”.

“What I can say is the foreign ministry is constantly reviewing our operations,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Amelie Heinsjö.

Nevertheless, Swedish business leaders in New York have launched a campaign to voice their disapproval over the rumoured closing of the Swedish consulate there.

The board of directors of the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of New York (SACC-NY) has drafted a letter to Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in which they say that closing the consulate would have “monumental negative consequences” for Swedish interests.

Several prominent Swedish business leaders have signed on to the letter, including former ABB head Percy Barnevik, current Electrolux CEO Hans Stråberg, and Lars G. Nordström, the former head of Nordea bank.

“I understand that cuts need to be made in times like these. But the consulate-general…there are 108 consulates-general here in New York and none are closing; quite the opposite, actually. Our Nordic neighbours are thinking of expanding,” said Renée Lundholm, head of SACC-NY, to TT.

Many rank-and-file members of the roughly 30,000-strong community of Swedes residing in the New York area have also joined the movement to save the consulate from being shuttered.

An online petition has attracted close to 1,000 signatures and others are frantically emailing their contacts to spread the word about the growing movement to save the consulate from closure.

On a forum associated with the petition, one signatory described the move as “highly questionable”, adding sarcastically that the decision would be “about as smart as moving the Riksdag out of Stockholm”.

Mona Johnsson, a Swede who has lived in the city since the early 1960s, immediately set about putting together her own list of names when she heard the news.

“It’s really important for Sweden as a country to have a consulate-general here in New York,” she told The Local.

Story continues below…

She also plans on sending her list of nearly 650 names to Bildt, who has the final say in any decision to close Swedish diplomatic facilities.

On Tuesday, Anders Hjelmtorp, the head of Export Music Sweden, also sent a note urging “common sense” to Bildt, as well as finance minister Anders Borg and trade minister Eva Björling.

In another protest letter, Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of satellite radio provider Sirius XM Radio in the United States which boasts 150 stations and 20 million subscribers, expresses his disapproval for the plans, pointing to the New York consulate’s importance to music industry and music exports.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:05 April 22, 2009 by tigger007
that would be a lost to the small swedish elite,but what about the common folk.i'm sure that the swedish government has a really good reason to close the consulate office in NYC. the swedish government has spend alot of money on the head consulate office in wash dc(16 million dollars).i have been to the swedish consulate office in NYC,it's small and on the 45th floor. i guess that the swedish consulate office in NYC is important for the feel of having sweden in america or a since of swedish pride. i hope that they will figure something out soon,and i hope it will benefit the common folk of sweden. i guess for any country having a consulate office is the usa(NYC or WASH DC) is a big thing to have to boast your country's pride!!

13:30 April 22, 2009 by 7
it's unlikely the NYC consulate will close. it provides too many services strengthening US/SE ties which is economically beneficial to sweden.
13:41 April 22, 2009 by peropaco
I say, re-shuffle the staff and all those self important people working in those consulates around the world and replace them with people who actually work and care. They are a bunch of pompous and arrogant idiots.
14:34 April 22, 2009 by Balticcrosser
New York is the unofficial capital of the world. It remains the most important centre for global business and finance. The foreign ministry cannot really be planning this, surely? Perhaps savings can be made by sharing staff with Sweden's UN Representative Office, but I'd guess they're doing this already?
17:17 April 22, 2009 by Peter G Gilbert
I cannot imagine the largest city in the USA closing, when I have found the Swedish Consulate most helpful, here in Milwaukee. It is most important to have outlets, for communication, especially, when I need to communicate with Swedish companies, to conduct business.

18:03 April 22, 2009 by Kemi
I don't think it's a big loss to close it down. I lived in New York City before moving to Sweden and had dealt with the consulate in question several times. They are not particularly kind or helpful compared to most of the other paper-pushers I went through later in Sweden---not a very good first impression to the country, to say the least. So a few thousand people would have to make a short trip to DC occasionally, very occasionally---like most people living abroad have to. Being in or near New York City doesn't make one more important than others and surely isn't a good enough excuse for someone to be overly full of oneself.
22:41 April 22, 2009 by thomasnoe
Hey Tigger,

For one House of Sweden in Wash DC is completely irrelevant to someone living in NYC! It doesn't serve us at all! They should have built something similar in NYC instead for the money!It's an absolute fact that there are far more Swedes living in NYC area than in DC. There are far more Swedish turists visiting NYC than any other area. There are far more Swedish au pairs getting into trouble at Newark airport than National.

In fact use the airlines as a guide. There is no such thing as a direct flight from Stockholm to Washington DC! Why is that?

As a side note House of Sweden is an embassy not a consulate. It's nice and glamourous.. but I don't think it serves Sweden as a brand better than the actions happening in NYC! THe consulates mission is 50% to promote Sweden the other 50% is passports visa etc. On both counts the need is FAR greater in NYC.
22:41 April 22, 2009 by thomasnoe
Also my father is handicapped how easy is it for him to go to Washington DC? I think it's very glibb to just assume travel to DC is easy for people.
22:45 April 22, 2009 by thomasnoe
I know people at that consulate and to call them "pompous and arrogant idiots" is uncalled for and WRONG! I could care less about diplomats as they are short term visitors who will return to Sweden jobs intact. However there are a lot of local Swedes who who have families and homes in NYC area that will loose their jobs. And you call them "pompous and arrogant idiots"??????
13:20 April 30, 2009 by tigger007
(thomasnoe) you do have a point about NYC it is a must for swedes to see in their life time! times are ruff and the swedish government and others want to cut and save money. wash dc is the most power city in modern times and sweden wants to be heard in wash dc,so hince the embassy in wash dc. wash dc is an eazy travel from nyc to wash dc,by train or bus. there are about 30,000 swedes living in NYC and more will come to visit and live in nyc. swedes feel connected to nyc for some reason and swedes feel(most) they wanna be connected to modern states of the world.
13:51 April 30, 2009 by Puffin
Uproar??? Where?

This 'major' news broken by the Local does not even seem to hit the radar here in Sweden apart from the Swedish-American writing a letter of protest.
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