Meld. St. 12 (2010–2011)

Assistance to Norwegians abroad

To table of content

3 International cooperation in the consular field

International cooperation in the consular field is based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,1 supplemented by other multilateral and bilateral agreements.

3.1 Nordic cooperation in the consular field

The Nordic countries have cooperated closely in the administrative and consular fields ever since the Nordic Passport Union was established2 and the Helsinki Treaty concluded. There has also been close cooperation between the Nordic foreign services, both at ministry level and between the diplomatic and consular missions in third countries.

Boks 3.1 The Nordic Passport Union

The Nordic Passport Union was established on 1 July 1954. It allows citizens of the Nordic countries to travel freely across borders in the Nordic region without carrying a passport, and to reside anywhere in the region without a residence permit.

With the exception of Iceland, which has limited opportunities to provide consular services because of its size, all the Nordic countries provide roughly the same type and level of consular services. There are, however, differences as regards internal organisation and resource use.

The Nordic countries cooperate closely on an ongoing basis in the consular field. Nordic working groups have been established in a number of consular areas, and senior officials from the five countries meet on a regular basis to coordinate their activities and exchange information. There are also exchanges of officials between the foreign ministries. Diplomatic and consular officers posted abroad from the Nordic countries have local meetings to keep in contact and coordinate their activities.

The intensity of the consular cooperation between the Nordic diplomatic and consular missions varies from place to place – from physical co-location and joint administrative support functions, to joint visa sections and mutual representation in visa cases, as well as mutual assistance in consular cases in connection with major incidents. The Nordic embassies also generally cooperate closely on crisis management and emergency preparedness.3

There is general agreement between the Nordic countries on the importance of further developing and strengthening cooperation in the consular field. A number of measures are being considered, such as closer cooperation on travel documents, common procedures for registering information at the missions, common guidelines for appointing honorary consuls, etc.

Boks 3.2 Nordic cooperation in the consular field

In autumn 2010, the Norwegian Embassy in an African country was informed that a Danish citizen had been arrested for having overstayed his tourist visa. The Norwegian Embassy immediately contacted the Danish Embassy in the closest African country. After obtaining the Danish Embassy’s approval, the Norwegian Embassy contacted a local lawyer and the authorities of the country where the Danish citizen was being detained. The Danish citizen was released on bail one month later and left the country a few days after that. The Danish authorities have expressed their appreciation to the Norwegian Embassy for its assistance in the matter.

Further harmonisation in other areas seems more difficult because of different rules and different ways of organising consular assistance. The various Nordic countries’ different forms of association with the EU also set limits on the extent to which Nordic consular cooperation can be formalised.

3.2 Consular cooperation with the EU

The EU has been seeking to improve coordination and cooperation in the consular field within the Union for a long time. However, the EU has encountered many of the same problems as the Nordic region, such as lack of harmonisation of legislation and differences in the practical organisation of consular assistance.

Under the Treaty of Lisbon,4 every citizen of the Union is, when in a country where the member state of which he or she is a citizen is not represented, entitled to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of any other EU member state on the same conditions as the citizens of that state. With this in view, an effort is being made to facilitate the exchange of information and improve coordination of the EU member states’ national efforts in the consular field and in the field of crisis management. A number of the EU countries are reluctant to accept a greater degree of supranationality in the consular field.

So far consular matters are not part of the portfolio of the EU’s new common foreign service, the European External Action Service (EEAS). No section or other entity for dealing with consular matters has been established in the organisation. The aspirations and needs of the various EU countries differ as regards the role the EEAS should play in consular matters. Several of the smaller countries would like EU representations in third countries to have responsibility for consular matters as well, while larger countries such as France, Germany and the UK are not interested in this. Thus, any extension of the EEAS’s role to include consular matters is some way in the future. The Nordic countries agree that developments in the EU must not prevent closer Nordic cooperation in the consular field.

There is a growing tendency in the EU to view the diplomatic and consular missions’ work with applications for entry and residence in Schengen countries as being related to the assistance provided by these countries to their own citizens abroad. However, the EU member states have made more progress in coordinating procedures for dealing with immigration cases. Common rules for processing and issuing short-stay visas are already in place in the Schengen area. Norway has formal cooperation arrangements with the EU in this field, but they do not apply to assistance to the respective countries’ own citizens.

It is possible that administration of visas may be incorporated into the work of the EEAS in the longer term as there is already a common policy in this area. One of the aims of the EU framework for cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs in the period 2010–2014, known as the Stockholm Programme, is to examine the possibilities of establishing a common European mechanism for issuing visas. Another aim is to establish more Common Application Centres (CAC). Such centres could replace the current system, where all or many of the member states have diplomatic or consular missions in the same city and issue visas to the same territory. It is possible that it will become more common for visa offices that serve the general public to be incorporated administratively into the various countries’ missions to the EU, and that these will also provide certain types of consular services. If the EU further develops cooperation in the consular field on the basis of existing cooperation on the administration of visas, this will also have consequences for Norway. The Government will follow the situation in the EU closely and will assess the need for formal association with EU cooperation in this area on a regular basis.



Cf. Box 2.1.


Cf. the Protocol of 1 July 1954.


Cf. Chapter 7.2.


Cf. Article 23 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

To front page