In “Hjemme-UD”, more than twenty people work full time with these questions. The Foreign Ministry’s operational center was recently opened. Norwegian citizens can call there at any time of the day to get help with everything from theft and loss of passports to far more serious cases. At the same time, the aforementioned report to the Storting makes it clear that, in the most important way , the welfare state ends at Norway’s borders . It conveys that personal responsibility and help for self-help are pillars of the consular work, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invests a lot in processing (read: reducing) people’s expectations of what Norwegian citizens can expect from service abroad. The welfare state ends at Norway’s borders.
According to computerannals.com, other countries think the same way. At Heathrow Airport in London, the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs regularly publishes brochures that specify what the authorities cannot help you with when you leave your home country. The same is now clear on the Foreign Ministry’s website, and in a separate brochure .
Back to Congo: Report to the Storting 12 (2010–11) makes it clear that dramatic and life-threatening criminal cases in countries with controversial or arbitrary legal certainty must have the highest priority. The authorities will do their utmost to save lives. They will play on the entire foreign policy apparatus, not least when there may be good reasons to question the rule of law and when Norwegians have been sentenced to death.
7: How much help is enough?
Here there will always be strong emotions at play, and there will be divided opinions about what is “enough” or “satisfactory”. There are no easy answers. But Norwegian foreign policy can succeed even better in the time to come, if everyone involved reflects on some key dilemmas in this field:
- The poorer and more vulnerable a country is in our globalized world, the more skeptical one will be when far richer and more powerful countries seek to dictate solutions and question the rule of law in the country in question. Cuts in aid and similar instruments will often work directly against their purpose.
- Justice and equal treatment
form the basis of Norwegian policy in this as in other areas. Many people experience it as negative when millions of kroner are spent on media-covered cases, while no one helps those who do not get coverage in the media. Raw media drive and political sensitivity inevitably lead to major differences between different issues. It challenges the legitimacy of politics.
- Every government must balance demanding consular matters against other important matters on behalf of Norway and Norwegian citizens. Therefore, for example, demands that Norway should cut humanitarian aid to countries that train “Norwegian” consular affairs may appear unreasonable.
This article has shown that helping Norwegians abroad is becoming an increasingly important field in Norwegian foreign policy. Politicians also know very well that there are few things their popularity is measured more strongly against than whether they manage to solve cases where Norwegians are exposed to acute danger. But precisely by profiling themselves on such issues, politicians contribute to increasing expectations of what the authorities will help Norwegians in crisis with. What good is a strict message in tourist brochures if politicians are willing to help?
What is consular assistance – what is not?
Consular services : «the services a country’s (here: Norwegian) authorities offer their citizens abroad. From the dissolution of the union in 1905 until the end of the 1950s, this assistance was mainly concentrated on seafarers and businesses. Today, the vast majority of requests for assistance come from tourists and other travelers, as well as from Norwegian citizens who have chosen to settle abroad for a shorter or longer period of time.
- In case of urgent need: assistance in acute situations (accidents, illness, theft, death, arrests, etc.)
- Non-emergency: taking care of administrative tasks, such as issuing passports, performing marriages, notarial transactions, etc. »
Aid, but not consular: «Not all aid that the Norwegian authorities offer Norwegians abroad is considered consular aid. Assistance to Norwegian citizens sent by the Norwegian authorities through the Foreign Service or to persons participating in international military operations or other international service is also not normally regarded as consular assistance. Nor does the Foreign Service’s assistance to Norwegian business and industry or the work to promote Norwegian cultural interests abroad. ”
More on consular assistance
«The Norwegian welfare state only applies on Norwegian territory . Abroad, you are subject to the laws and regulations of the host country. ” … This sets the framework for consular assistance.
«The Foreign Service offers Norwegian citizens advice, help and assistance abroad. Over 100,000 (2011) large and small consular cases are handled annually; most of these are resolved by embassies, consulates general and the honorary consulates. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ operational center receives about 100 inquiries about consular assistance a day. ”
«Norwegians make more than seven million overnight trips to other countries every year. Nearly 80,000 Norwegian citizens are registered as permanent residents outside Norway. ”
“The vast majority of trips abroad go without problems. However, a small proportion of travelers need assistance, but solve this with the help of their insurance company, fellow travelers, friends or relatives. ”
“Acute and serious cases are given priority – cases where life and health are at stake, cases that may involve human rights violations and cases involving minors.”
«Norwegians abroad, however, do not have a legal right to consular assistance. This is partly due to the fact that the Norwegian authorities do not have coercive force against their own citizens abroad. Nor can the Norwegian authorities order Norwegians abroad to accept help. The type of consular services that can be offered will therefore depend on several sets of legislation, the person’s connection to Norway and the country of residence, as well as available consular resources. ”