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Diplomacy audit Network of small embassies should be reviewed

Fountain with statue in front of Swiss foreign ministry

The statue of Helvetia is placed prominently in front of the Swiss foreign ministry building in Bern.

(Keystone/Peter Klaunzer)

The Swiss foreign ministry is facing strong criticism about its small diplomatic representations, mainly in eastern Europe and central Asia.

The Federal Audit Officeexternal link says that 31 small embassies with minimal levels of staff often lack a clear profile. And though their work was limited to simply maintaining existing bilateral relations, they cost the state about CHF25 million ($25 million) annually, it said.

In its report, published on Wednesday, the financial watchdog recommended a review of the portfolio of embassies, as well as more ambitious targets.

It said it was difficult to prove how efficient the activities of these small embassies are. More than half of their resources are used for administrative and management tasks, the audit office said. It is also difficult to find suitable staff for such embassies as their responsibilities and challenges are of limited importance.

The financial regulator has called for alternative options, saying the network of small diplomatic representations abroad should not be extended.

“For representations providing limited added value, the foreign ministry must consider alternative solutions, e.g. regionalisation or the ambassador-in-residence in Bern, along the lines of the solutions developed by other countries,” a statement said.

In response, the foreign ministry acknowledged the need to review its strategy, but it insists that a sovereign state needs a broad network of missions to defend national interests, according to the Swiss news agency.

Switzerland’s diplomatic networkexternal link currently includes embassies, general consulates, cooperation offices and missions to international organisations in around 170 locations across the world.

diplomacy Big variations in rent costs of Swiss embassies abroad

Switzerland pays dearly for its representation abroad – some CHF1.2 million monthly is spent on rent across the world, a newspaper writes.

This content was published on January 21, 2019 11:25 AM

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