Budget cuts force Sweden to shut Vietnam embassy 

December 24, 2010
Swedish Ambassador Staffan Herrström (R) talks with Thanh Nien Editor-in-Chief Nguyen Quang Thong during a visit to the newspaper’s editorial office last month.

Sweden has announced that is would close its embassy in Vietnam next year because of a budget cut imposed on the current government by the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament.

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt said the move would not have any impact on existing and planned bilateral cooperation programs in Vietnam.

"It is [the] most unfortunate consequence of a decision taken by our Parliament to cut back funding for our Foreign Service. I very much regret the move, and will do whatever I can to continue our cooperation and dialogue with Vietnam in different areas," he told Thanh Nien Weekly via email on Wednesday (December 22).

"I don’t think there will be any effect on our existing or planned cooperation programs,” he said.

On Wednesday, Sweden said it would shut its embassies in Argentina, Belgium, Vietnam, Malaysia and Angola because of budgetary cuts imposed on the minority government by the opposition in parliament. The five embassies will be closed in 2011.

"This painful decision is a consequence of the recent decision of the Riksdag to cut funding to the Government Offices by 300 million Swedish kronor (US$43.7 million)," Bildt said in a statement.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s center-right government was re-elected to office with two seats short of a majority in September.

Jairo Acuña-Alfaro, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Vietnam policy advisor on public administration reform and anti-corruption, said that the news “has clearly come as a surprise since Sweden has had a very detailed phase-out strategy.”

Sweden has been cooperating with Vietnam mainly in anti-corruption and press training. In 2007, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered the Government Inspectorate to host the Anti-Corruption Dialogue, a biannual forum where the Vietnamese government and its development partners discuss ideas about anticorruption efforts in the country. Sweden was invited to mobilize resources and organize the dialogue.

“Clearly, if Sweden closes its embassy in Hanoi, it will leave an important gap in terms of the anticorruption work,” Acuña-Alfaro of UNDP Vietnam said.

But he added the Vietnamese government has extensively repeated that corruption is a key priority, in that regards a possible closure of the Swedish embassy should not be considered as an obstacle to continue this political dialogue on anticorruption.

“On the contrary, it should be seen as an opportunity for the government to show its political will and determination and give continuity. As we have mentioned in the past, the government must own the fight against corruption.”

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