Gov’t savings shrink Finland’s global embassy network

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15 embassies will be closed down to save Finnish government spendings.

More Finnish embassies are being eliminated as part of the government’s ongoing savings drive, reports YLE.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee wanted, but was not granted, additional funding for the country’s network of missions abroad. In addition, Finland’s failed bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council has released any previous fetters on trimming overseas representation.

The government’s programme of spending cuts has compelled the Foreign Ministry to look for savings by closing a number of Finnish embassies abroad.

According to the Ministry’s estimates about 15 embassies will have to close their doors to meet savings targets.

So far about half of that number have already been mothballed, including the embassy in the Philippine capital Manila, consulates in Canton, China and Sydney, Australia, as well as Finland’s main consulate in Hamburg, Germany.

New closures will not be decided before government has settled framework budgets covering the next few years to 2015.

Finland’s campaign for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council also served to slow the pace of embassy terminations up to this autumn.

“There was a waiting phase due to the Security Council campaign,” said Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Peter Stenlund.

Consulates to go first
Government’s 2013 budget is based in part on a spending allocation of 6.2 million euros for the embassy network. This represents a seven percent cut in expenditure.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee proposed an additional allocation of five million euros to safeguard its foreign representation, but that amount shrank to just one million euros during committee discussions.

“That doesn’t change the big picture,” commented State Secretary Stenlund.

However even an additional one million euros offers some comfort.

“We can look at options like placing individual diplomats either in the embassies of other Nordic countries, or maybe in the UN’s foreign service missions in the future,” Stenlund conjectured.

So far the programme of overseas mission reductions has focused primarily on consulates, which are secondary to main embassy representation in foreign countries.

On the other hand, just three embassies have been closed as part of the savings drive, as the Foreign Ministry seeks to maintain solid bilateral relations with its international partners.

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