The Swedish foreign ministry has now announced it is closing its consulates general in New York and Los Angeles due to budget constraints.
The long-awaited announcement comes in spite of opposition to the move from Swedes in the U.S. and the Swedish business community. In addition to the closings in the U.S, Sweden will also shutter consulates in Guangzhou, China, and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, as well as the embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt:
“When I took office as Minister for Foreign Affairs in autumn 2006, the Ministry had a budget deficit of over 50 SEK ($6.6 million). The deficit had been built up over several years and the previous government maintained activities that had no financing. With these changes, we will balance the budget and at the same time renew working methods.”
The cuts are part of a broader cost-savings effort, which will reduce the ministry’s real estate outlays by 50 million SEK annually and eliminate 100 positions by the end of 2010. When rumors about the possible closure of Sweden's consulates general in New York and Los Angeles began circulating earlier this spring, many US-based Swedes as well as members of the Swedish business community voiced their complaints over the plans. The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce of New York (SACC-NY) warned of “monumental negative consequences” and sent a letter to Bildt urging him to reconsider the decision. But in the end, the ministry's budgetary challenges took precedence. According to the ministry, Sweden’s consulate general in Los Angeles will be closed by the end of 2009, at which point the embassy in Washington, DC will take over responsibility for the nine honorary consulates, which currently report to the Los Angeles consulate. Efforts are also underway to find a way to open an honorary consulate in Los Angeles at some point in the future, according to the foreign ministry. Closure of the consulate general in New York is expected to be completed by January 31st, 2010. Plans call for the current consulate to be replaced by an honorary consulate to provide some services to Swedish citizens in the area. International trade matters will continue to be handled in New York by the Swedish Trade Council (Exportrådet) and the Invest in Sweden Agency, with additional responsibilities falling to the embassy in Washington.