Meld. St. 12 (2010–2011)

Assistance to Norwegians abroad

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8 Reimbursement of expenses

The increasing number and complexity of consular matters, sometimes combined with irresponsible behaviour on the part of Norwegian citizens, raises the question whether the Norwegian authorities can or should claim reimbursement of expenses incurred in providing assistance to Norwegian citizens abroad. This applies both to individual cases and to more extensive crises.

Under the current rules, expenses incurred by the Foreign Service in connection with consular assistance are covered over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ operating budget, whereas the individual concerned covers his or her own expenses.

As a general rule, the same distinction applies in crisis situations. This means, for example, that if the Norwegian authorities provide assistance in connection with an evacuation, those evacuated are responsible for covering the expenses this entails. In practice this means that prior to evacuation, they must confirm that they have adequate insurance coverage or sign an agreement in which they undertake to repay an emergency loan. In general, evacuation assistance is only provided from a country or area in which the situation is dangerous to a safe area. This is in keeping with the coverage provided by most insurance policies. In certain cases, however, it may be appropriate to assist those concerned with transport all the way back to Norway. In connection with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011, a plane was chartered to transport Norwegians and their families and other Nordic citizens to Norway. Each person paid the regular airfare.

Today, the general rule is that the consent of the person concerned or a family member must be obtained before any measures entailing extraordinary expenses are implemented. Exceptions are very rarely made to this rule, and only in cases where there is serious threat to life. In such cases the Foreign Service requests the person concerned to reimburse the expenses incurred afterwards, either themselves or through their insurance company.

The possibility of claiming reimbursement of expenses incurred by the authorities in connection with assistance to a Norwegian citizen abroad who has, deliberately or negligently, taken a great risk is being considered. According to case law and administrative practice relating to search and rescue operations in Norway, the authorities may, in special cases, claim reimbursement of search and rescue expenses in cases where the person in need of assistance has shown gross negligence. The Supreme Court has ruled that the authorities’ claims for compensation are not limited to expenses incurred through the purchase of private services. The Norwegian authorities will therefore seek to recover the costs from the person concerned (or their insurance company) in extraordinary cases where gross negligence has been shown and where preventive considerations weigh heavily.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to continue its stringent practice as regards individuals’ responsibility for covering their own expenses in consular matters.

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