The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) finds that the diplomatic representation of Estonia in the United States of America should not be reduced, and proposes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to revoke the decision to close the consulates general in New York and San Francisco.
Today, the Foreign Affairs Committee took the position that in order to ensure adequate diplomatic capacity in the US, it is necessary to continue the work of the consulates general in addition to the embassy in Washington. “The Foreign Affairs Committee finds that the decision to reduce the diplomatic presence in the US 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 US, 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. To achieve all these objectives, it is important to have a broad diplomatic presence in the United States, and this task is fulfilled by the Consulates General in New York and San Francisco,” the Committee noted.
The Foreign Affairs Committee took its position after two sittings where the closure of consulates general was discussed. Last week, the Committee heard the justifications of Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna, and this week, the Committee met with the representatives of the Estonian American National Council who presented their proposal for the continuation of the work of the consulates. Representatives of the Estonians living in the United States believe that the closing of consulates would be harmful to Estonia, reducing Estonia’s presence and influence in business, cultural and international diplomacy. They highlighted the relevance of the Consulate General in New York in the continuity of Estonian diplomatic representation and the significance of the Consulate General in San Francisco for the promotion of business diplomacy. They also explained that diplomatic missions had an important role in preserving Estonian identity and culture and promoting Estonia in the US.
After discussions, the Committee came to the conclusion that the arguments of cost savings or reorganisation of work do not outweigh the damage to the interests of the Republic of Estonia that would result from the loss of two bases at an important ally. “The Committee also considers it regrettable that the opinions and proposals of the organisations representing Estonians in the United States of America were not taken into account when the decision to close the consulates general was made,” the Foreign Affairs Committee pointed out.
The members of the Committee underlined that Estonia’s diplomatic representation, especially considering the current highly tense situation in Europe and around the world, had a very important role in defending our security interests. “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 Commission said in its position, and made a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to revoke the decision to close the consulates general.