A new bill to be brought before the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament, will outline the situations in which Swedes abroad can expect state help and those in which they will be left to their own devices.
According to the bill, the state will only help out during major catastrophes affecting large numbers of Swedes, in countries where the local authorities are unable to cope.
“The bill presents a strong call for the state to help out when really necessary, but a strong call for individuals to take responsibility for themselves and purchase insurance,” Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told news agency TT.
Bildt said that the state may demand reimbursement for the cost of travel and healthcare provided to tourists by the Swedish diplomatic service in a crisis.
“We’re talking about homeward travel and possibly healthcare costs. These are normally costs covered by insurance,” Bildt said. He underlined the importance of buying travel insurance when going abroad and being sure of what it covered.
The bill follows disagreement about the state’s responsibility for Swedish citizens caught in disasters abroad. The issue was brought into sharp relief by the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2006 Lebanon war.
The cost to taxpayers of evacuating Swedish citizens from Lebanon, partly by arranging transport by ship to Cyprus, was 77 million kronor. The state paid the full amount. Helping Swedes struck by the Asian tsunami, most of whom were in Thailand, cost 157 million kronor.
The Foreign Ministry expects future disasters to draw heavily on taxpayers’ money, but hopes the new rules will enable the state to recoup a portion of the costs from those who benefit directly from rescue efforts.