Norway will in June this year close its embassy in Zimbabwe as part of its adjustment and restructuring process “in light of budgetary constraints and new priorities”.
The Norwegian ambassador to Zimbabwe Bård Hopland said the closure did not mean the breaking of ties between the European country and Zimbabwe.
“Sadly, but still what an opportunity you gave me to celebrate a special partnership and friendship before I leave. So, even if the Norwegian “farmhouse” now will move to Pretoria, I am certain that there will continue to “lie a trodden road” between us,” Hopland said at the official opening of the new Theatre in the Park venue in Harare on Tuesday night.
The Norwegian embassy closure comes months after the closure of the Denmark embassy in Harare last year.
Zimbabwe is not the only country which has been affected by Norway’s restructuring as the country is also wrapping up its missions in Zambia, Kazakhstan and Bulgaria.
Norway through Hivos was a major funder of arts in Zimbabwe and also invested in infrastructure development and humanitarian assistance through ZimFund and indirectly through supporting the United Nations.
The embassy was also supporting Zimbabwe’s economic development through facilitation of Norwegian business establishment in the southern African country.
“Please, also allow me to use this opportunity to thank Hivos, through which much of our cultural funds have been channelled, for their efforts to bring together arts practitioners and artists in Zimbabwe with a common vision of developing spaces for freedom of expression.
“The Norwegian ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently launched a strategy for support of freedom of expression. It intends to promote free speech as an integral part of Norwegian development assistance, well aware that freedom of expression is a prerequisite for democracy and good governance,” Hopland said.
In a previous statement on the closure, Norway’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende said budgetary constraints had caused the adjustments.
“We have to adjust to a changing world and the resources available”, Brende said.
Norway established its mission in Zimbabwe in 1981 and has been involved in development aid. In the past years, the main focus areas have been support to election processes and democratisation, human rights and culture.