Sweden has 104 missions abroad, which include embassies, representations, delegations and consulates. The missions abroad report directly to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs at the same time as they are autonomous government agencies. Missions abroad and the approximately 400 honorary consulates together constitute the foreign representation. Sweden has diplomatic relations with almost all independent states.
What does a mission abroad do?
Responsibilities of missions abroad include monitoring, representing and promoting all aspects of Swedish interests in the country of their operations or in an international organisation. They are also responsible for providing services to Swedish agencies, companies, organisatons and individual citizens. Reports are sent regularly to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, containing information and analyses of, for example, political and economic developments and the countrys views on world events.
A priority task of missions abroad is to promote Swedish economic interests abroad, by providing services to Swedish companies and encouraging foreign investments in Sweden.
International development cooperation has long been an important part of Swedish foreign policy. This field includes issues relating to the growth of resources, greater economic and social equality, democracy, human rights and gender equality.
A major task is handling consular issues, i.e. helping Swedish citizens abroad who, for example, have become the victims of crime or have lost their passports. Migration issues are also an important task of missions abroad. This involves issuing visas and residence and work permits for foreign citizens wishing to visit or work in Sweden.
Disseminating information about Sweden is another task of every mission abroad. This is done in the form of seminars and exhibitions, for example.
Sweden has 85 embassies. An embassy is Swedens highest diplomatic representation in a country and is always situated in a countrys capital city. An embassy is led by an Ambassador. When a newly arrived Ambassador has presented his/her letters of credence, i.e., authorisation to represent Sweden, to the receiving states head of state, the Ambassador has taken office as Swedens official representative. Under the Ambassador, there may be a Minister, one or a number of Counsellors and one or more Secretaries at different levels, called First, Second and Third Secretaries. Administrative staff include assistants who are permanent administrative staff posted from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and locally employed personnel. At large embassies there may also be special attachés, such as an agricultural attaché or a defence attaché.
Delegations and representations
At international organisations such as the EU in Brussels, the UN in New York and the OECD in Paris, Sweden has delegations or representations. Their main task is to represent Sweden, monitor its interests in the operations of these organisations and report on their activities. Sweden has six Swedish delegations and representations.
Career and honorary consulates
There are three types of consulates: consulates-general, consulates and vice-consulates. Consulates-general are of higher rank than consulates and vice-consulates. A consulate is often situated in a city or town other than the capital city. A difference is made between a career consulate and an honorary consulate.
Personnel posted from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs work at career consulates. The primary tasks of consulates include supporting Swedish export companies, promoting foreign investment in Sweden and assisting Swedish citizens in distress. Consulates also issue visas, residence and work permits for foreign citizens wishing to visit or work in Sweden. Sweden has 13 career consulates. New York, Hamburg and Shanghai are examples of cities in which Sweden has consulates.
There are about 400 Swedish honorary consulates. Their task is to assist the embassies and career consulates with different matters. An honorary consulate is led by an honorary consul. The post of honorary consul is an honorary appointment without remuneration. An honorary consul can be a Swede or a foreign citizen. There are many Swedish honorary consulates in, for example, the Nordic countries, France, the UK, Germany and the USA.
Varying size of missions abroad
The number of persons posted at a Swedish mission abroad varies from one to around seventy. The smaller missions abroad have two or three officials posted from Sweden, while the larger ones have 15 or more. Most of the officials posted abroad come from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs but officials may also be posted from Sida, the Swedish Trade Council, the Swedish Migration Board and other ministries. The task of officials posted from agencies and ministries other than the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is to monitor their specialised areas. At the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the European Union in Brussels, all the ministries at the Government Offices are represented. Some 40 Ministry for Foreign Affairs officials work there together with some 30 colleagues from other agencies and ministries.
Among the largest Swedish embassies are Washington, London, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing. Small embassies with only two officials posted abroad are to be found, for example, in Gaberone, Luxembourg and Pyongyang. The smallest Swedish mission abroad is the consulate-general in Mariehamn on Åland, with only one official posted abroad. Most of the Swedish missions abroad have between three and six officials posted abroad. Locally employed personnel are to be found at all missions abroad, in addition to staff posted abroad.
Concurrently accredited and Stockholm-based Ambassadors
Sweden has diplomatic relations with almost all independent states in the world. It has diplomatic representation in around half of these. In countries where Sweden has no embassy, it is common to appoint an Ambassador in a neighbouring country as concurrently accredited Ambassador. This means that the Ambassador is Swedens representative in the country and deals with relations through regular visits. Examples of countries sharing an Ambassador with another are Laos, Cambodia and Burma/Myanmar, where the Ambassador in Thailand is concurrently accredited in those countries.
In some thirty countries, such as Barbados, Cyprus, Eritrea, Haiti and Tunisia, Swedens relations are handled by Ambassadors in Stockholm. These Ambassadors work at the Office of Swedish Ambassadors Stationed in Stockholm at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, but they make frequent visits to the countries in which they are accredited.