In her foreign policy address to the Storting (Norwegian parliament) on 22 March about the war in Ukraine, Ms Huitfeldt stated that she was in the process of reviewing the structure of the Foreign Service in order to safeguard Norwegian interests in a new era in Europe. The changes now being announced are a result of this review and are intended to enable the Foreign Service to provide better assistance to Norwegian companies, both in and outside Europe.
Stronger presence in Europe
In 2023, the number of diplomatic staff will be increased at the Norwegian embassies in Bucharest, Kyiv and Vilnius, as well as the Mission of Norway to the EU and Norway’s Permanent Delegation to NATO in Brussels. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering increasing the number of posted diplomatic staff and/or locally employed staff at various other missions in Europe as well.
‘Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU has sought to promote European solidarity and closer cooperation on security and defence. So it makes good sense for us to strengthen Norway’s diplomatic presence in the EU, NATO and selected European countries. The world never stops changing, and the Norwegian Foreign Service must be prepared to change with it,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.
The Norwegian Embassy in Bucharest also has responsibility for Moldova and Bulgaria, while the Embassy in Vilnius has responsibility for Belarus.
Increased support for the Norwegian business sector abroad
Additional staff will also be posted to selected missions outside Europe in 2023. The number of locally employed staff at selected missions, both in and outside Europe, will also be increased.
In many cases, the staff increases are related to the Government’s effort to increase Norwegian exports.
‘Both in and outside Europe, we are seeing rapid developments in terms of the green transition and digitalisation. This is opening up enormous opportunities for Norwegian trade and industry,’ said the Foreign Minister.
Five missions to be closed
The following missions will be closed in 2023: the embassies in Bratislava (Slovakia), Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Pristina (Kosovo), the embassy office in Antananarivo (Madagascar) and the Consulate General in Houston (USA).
‘It is never easy to decide to close Norwegian missions. Closures such as these affect the lives of posted Norwegian diplomats and have even greater consequences for the locally employed staff. But we have a responsibility to use our resources in a way that enables us to safeguard Norwegian interests as effectively as possible,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.
Norway’s diplomatic relations with Kosovo, Madagascar, Slovakia and Sri Lanka will be dealt with through alternative arrangements, for example responsibility for this will be given to a Norwegian embassy close by, or an ambassador based in Norway will be appointed for the country concerned.
Norway currently has 101 diplomatic and consular missions. The planned changes will mean that Norway has fewer missions abroad but retains approximately the same number of posted diplomatic staff. The Norwegian Foreign Service comprises more than 2 600 employees. About 800 of these work in Oslo, over 600 are posted diplomatic staff, and some 1 200 are locally employed staff recruited directly by the missions abroad.
The Embassy in Bratislava will close during summer 2023. The exact date will be announced later.