Government announces changes and reassignments in foreign service
The government announced after its cabinet meeting on Thursday that it intended to close Estonia’s embassy in Brazil in early 2017, reassign its representative to the OECD to another ministry, and move Estonia’s consul in Shanghai to Beijing.
The meeting discussed and decided several matters concerning the country’s diplomatic relations. Beyond the embassy to be closed in Brazil, it was also decided that the management of Estonia’s representation at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would move from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to another, and that the Estonian consul in Shanghai would move to the Beijing embassy.
Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand told BNS on Thursday that the changes were related both to state reform and changing requirements of the foreign service. Estonia’s OECD representation would be managed by another ministry or the Government Office directly, she said, as other officials related to the same topical areas were moving from their current ministries to the new place as well.
The closing of the embassy in Brazil is part of a downsizing plan announced earlier in the year. Kaljurand confirmed that the government was also considering closing its embassy in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana. The government would continue this discussion in six months’ time, Kaljurand said, and added that as foreign minister she didn’t consider closing any other representations in EU or NATO countries.
Attaching the current consul in Shanghai to the Beijing embassy, according to Kaljurand, is done to strengthen Estonia’s representation in China. She stressed that a diplomatic representative would remain in Shanghai, would have the status of a diplomat, but belong to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
Asked about possible layoffs, Kaljurand said that the change was broader than just layoffs. “It is a reorganization of structures and functions as well as laying off people,” she said.
The cabinet are following their program of reducing the number of people working for the central government by about 750 people in 2015 and 2016. The Foreign Ministry previously said it now had the same number of employees as in 2003, before Estonia became a member of the EU and NATO.
As of Dec. 1 2015, Estonia has 46 missions in other countries, including 35 embassies, seven representations at international organizations, three consulates general, and one consular office.