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Consulates closed to save money

The foreign ministry is closing around 20 consulates in Europe and further afield and is bringing the services together into eight regional centres.

The ministry said on Tuesday that the aim was to use limited resources more efficiently.

Spokesman Adrian Sollberger explained that in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, for example, in 2009 only 42 identity cards and three visas were issued, and for this service two members of staff were employed.

Several of these regional centres are already in operation. In mid-April a centre for Romania and Bulgaria was opened in Bucharest, and since May 16 consular services in The Hague have covered all three Benelux countries.

Since May 30 Stockholm has taken care of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, while the centre in Riga has looked after Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Outside Europe, a centre in Pretoria has been responsible for South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe since April 1.

Similarly, the centre in Santo Domingo now covers both the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR