Foreign embassies in Oslo currently owe the city nearly half-a-million kroner (around USD 80,000) in parking fines. Some of the fines are up to three years old, but embassy staff can claim diplomatic immunity and refuse to pay.
“International law allows the embassies to ignore the fines,” Halvard Leira, a senior researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. After refusing to pay for three years, the fines also fall beyond the statute of limitations, letting the diplomats off the hook.
Staff at the Russian Embassy are the worst offenders, topping the list of accumulated unpaid fines of NOK 144,450 over the past three years. The Moroccan Embassy ranked second with total unpaid parking fines of NOK 58, 200, followed by the Embassy of Vietnam in Norway with NOK 48,900 worth of unpaid parking tickets.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy claimed staff had become better at paying their fines. “It’s not like we go shopping and therefore get parking tickets, but sometimes it can be difficult to obey the rules,” Petr Swirin at the embassy told Aftenposten. “We have instilled more discipline in this area, and informed everyone that we should do everything we can to obey the Norwegian parking regulations.” He noted that the Russian Embassy is among the largest in Oslo, with around 100 employees and more vehicles with diplomatic plates than most.
Asked why the embassy hadn’t paid its earlier fines, Swirin said it “could have something to do with diplomatic immunity. It holds that you don’t have to pay tax in the countries where you’re stationed, but that’s my personal opinion.”
A spokesman for Norway’s foreign ministry said ministry staff had taken up issues where embassies stand out compared to others in a negative manner, and informed them that all parking fines should be paid. “Even though a person has immunity, they’re obligated to respect the laws and decisions of the country where they are,” said Kjetil Elsebutangen of the ministry.