Riigikogu committee urges Estonian consulates in the US remain open
The Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee has implored the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to rethink a decision to close two Estonian consulates in the United States, citing the need to maintain the country's visibility internationally, and in America in particular, given the current security situation.
The Foreign Affairs Committee says it considers maintaining Estonia's diplomatic representation in the U.S. as vital, and has petitioned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hold off closing the New York and San Francisco consulates general and their offices, as a result.
"The Foreign Affairs Committee finds that the decision to reduce the diplomatic presence in the U.S. is in conflict with the Estonian Foreign Policy Development Plan 2030, which includes among its goals the development of comprehensive and deepened cooperation with the U.S., making consular services easily accessible to Estonians living abroad and greater involvement of Estonians living abroad in the promotion of the foreign economy in order to ensure the best possible protection of Estonia's interests abroad," the committee stated on Thursday.
"To achieve all these objectives, it is important to have a broad diplomatic presence in the U.S., and this task is fulfilled by the consulates general in New York and San Francisco," the statement continued.
The representations in New York and San Francisco are key to achieving these goals, the committee says; the committee also expressed regret that the opinions and proposals of organizations representing Estonians in the U.S. were not taken into account when making the final decision to close the representations, last month.
The current extremely tense situation in Europe and worldwide also heightens the vital role in standing up for Estonia's security interests which consulates general play, the committee adds.
"Instead of downsizing, we need extending and strengthening of diplomatic representation so that Estonia's positions could be consistently explained to our most important allies. Therefore, the funding of diplomacy as the frontline of security policy and deterrence must be guaranteed in the long term," the committee's statement went on.
The committee met twice to discuss the situation, and heard from both Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) and representatives of the Estonian National Committee in the U.S., across the two meetings.
Representatives of the Estonian community in the U.S. also say that closing the representations will harm business and cultural ties and interests, and reduce options to showcase Estonia in the U.S. as a whole.
Ultimately, the Foreign Affairs Committee says, arguments relating to cost savings and work reorganization do not outweigh the damage to the interests of the Republic of Estonia which the loss of two bridgeheads in the U.S., Estonia's largest and most powerful ally, will bring about.
Despite outcry from Estonian groups in North America, the foreign ministry is pressing ahead of the New York and San Francisco closures, citing the need to make cuts.
Minister Tsahkna put savings made from the closures at around €1.2 million; one U.S.-based filmmaker says that the bulk of the estimated 30,000 Americans of Estonian origin could and should apply for Estonian citizenship – which is bestowed following the principle of Jus Sanguinis rather than Jus Soli.