Budget cuts to force embassy closures: Bildt

Budget cuts to force embassy closures: Bildt
Foreign minister Carl Bildt described as "stupid, dangerous and harmful" the passage of a bill slashing the budget of Swedish Government Offices (Regeringskansliet), warning that several Swedish embassies will be shuttered as a result.

On Thursday, the Riksdag passed a bill requiring the Government Offices to shave 300 million kronor ($43.64 million) from its operating budget.

The vote marked Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s first parliamentary defeat since reelection as the far-right Sweden Democrats and centre-left opposition voted in favour of the cuts.

Bildt argued that as a consequence, the foreign ministry will be forced to spend more on embassies than the new budget allows.

“I had just gotten the foreign ministry’s finances in order and we were getting ourselves back up on firm ground. Now we are in the hole again,” said Bildt after a meeting with the Riksdag’s Advisory Committee on EU Affairs on Friday.

He added that the ministry’s portion of the budget cuts amount to over 100 million kronor.

“Now we will compile a list, which I believe is unfortunate, of 10 embassies that must close,” said Bildt, who did not disclose further which locations would be affected.

Previously, the foreign ministry has named Sweden’s missions in Algiers, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Havana, Hong Kong, Khartoum, Lisbon, Luanda, Pyongyang and Rabat as being in danger of closure as a result of the budget cuts.

An ongoing internal debate at the foreign ministry has continued for several years on previous embassy closure decisions. Bildt has come out firmly and made it clear that a number of embassies have already served their purpose.

When Bildt was asked whether or not he thought that more embassies should be closed, he said no.

“I wouldn’t have chosen to close any more right now; I think we have found a good balance. It is clear that, as society develops, you open a close a few now and then. But not for financial reasons, no,” he said.

The Riksdag’s decision was not well advised, he stressed.

“It was a stupid decision, a dangerous decision and a harmful decision. It will have a detrimental impact on Sweden, but the Riksdag has decided on it and unfortunately, we will be forced to implement it,” he said.

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