Amid its worst economic crisis since independence, Sri Lankan officials have decided to close their Embassy in Oslo, Norway.
The surprise closure of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo will take place at the end of April. Cash-strapped Sri Lanka says the closure is temporary, but no time period has been given.
At present, the diplomatic mission is located at Sjølyst plass and headed up by the Ambassador Mr Godfrey Cooray. It is also concurrently accredited to Finland and Iceland.
Embassies serve as the headquarters for government representatives serving in a foreign country. We've previously spoken to many Embassy representatives in Norway including the Philippine Ambassador and the Charge d'Affairs at the U.S. Embassy.
An economic crisis in Sri Lanka
According to officials, the closure to a “general restructuring” of its diplomatic representation around the world. The measures have been undertaken by the Foreign Ministry in the context of the current economic situation and foreign currency constraints faced by the country.
Sri Lanka is in the middle of an economic crisis with major demonstrations taking place on the country’s streets. The country has struggled to pay the price of imported fuel, causing power failures and transport infrastructure problems throughout the nation.
This comes on top of rising foreign debt and cost of living within the country, and the downturn in tourism caused by the pandemic.
At present, the country has 181 diplomatic and consular representations abroad, but that is set to change. The embassy in Baghdad and general consulate in Sydney will also close temporarily.
Sri Lanka and Norway
The two countries have a stronger relationship than you might expect.
Diplomatic relations began in 1952, and Norway opened an Embassy in Colombo in 1996.
According to the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, the two countries “share democratic values and interests, and are strong supporters of multilateral cooperation, international law, including human rights law, and a strong United Nations system. The oceans are of great importance to the past and future of both countries.”
Statistics from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) show that from 1965 up to 2017, Norway contributed more than NOK 5 billion to Sri Lanka in development assistance. Since Sri Lanka became an upper middle-income country, development aid was reduced.
Norway also played a key role in the lengthy peace negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers.
Sri Lanka’s government stressed that its decision to close the Oslo Embassy will have no effect on the good relations with Norway.
What should Sri Lankans in Norway do now?
From May onwards, consular services will be handled through the Sri Lankan Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka said it will undertake appropriate measures to address all consular-related matters of Sri Lankan citizens residing in Norway through the new arrangement with Stockholm, as well as through the Honorary Consulate of Sri Lanka in Norway.