Embassies close in Foreign Service reshuffling

Five embassies in Europe and one in Africa earmarked for closure

The ongoing restructuring of the Danish Foreign Service has led to the shutdown of five embassies in Europe.

The minister of foreign affairs, Holger K Nielsen (SF), announced yesterday that the embassies in Switzerland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Slovakia are shuttering.

Aside from the embassy closures, the government also decided to axe a Trade Council office in Milan and a Mission Office in Libya.

“It is a tough and difficult decision to close missions. It affects both the embassy’s users and staff. However, in the places where missions will be closed, primarily in Europe, we will find new and different ways to co-operate with the countries concerned and to promote Danish interests. But it will be in another and less intense manner,” Nielsen wrote in a press release.

READ MORE: Embassy realignment should follow commercial potential, trade minister argues

Four new embassies opening up
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that Foreign Service stations in a number of countries will also experience cuts in staff and resources, including Romania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Albania, Argentina, Malaysia, Vietnam, Morocco and Afghanistan.

The good news is that the savings garnered by the closures will open up opportunities in other parts of the world and the ministry has announced that new embassies will be established in Colombia, the Philippines and Myanmar, while both an embassy and a Trade Council will open up in Nigeria.

According to Nielsen, the embassy reshuffle is part of a greater realignment to become more present in areas experiencing growth on the global stage. 

“The changes to the embassy structure will, all in all, give Denmark direct access to over 300 million more people and consumers than at present – distributed throughout three continents – including important emerging markets. We will open missions in regions and countries where economic growth is booming, where there is a huge potential – and where the economic power shift is accompanied by increased political clout,” Nielsen said.

READ MORE: There are no unnecessary embassies

Business sector rues decision
But despite the conveyed financial gains that the embassy reform is expected to promote, the move has attracted a number of critics, particularly from the political opposition and the business sector.

“We are a small and open economy where the most essential driver of growth is export,” Peter Thagesen, a spokesperson for industry advocate Dansk Industri, told Berlingske newspaper. "The representatives play an important role in the international activity of Danish business, so we think it’s a shame to save money at the expense of the Foreign Service.”

The government rejected this notion, emphasising that 90 percent of growth on the global stage will occur outside of Europe this year. Denmark has 158 diplomats in Europe, while they are currently only 38 in the up-and-coming BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

It’s not the first time in recent years that the government has shuttered embassies abroad. In 2012, Denmark closed down embassies in Iraq, Zambia and Benin. Barring a few exceptions, the embassy reform is expected to enter into effect on August 1.

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