Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) told the "Välisilm" talk show Monday that Estonia will not be closing embassies in its search for budget cuts.
Ministries have been tasked with cutting back for next year's state budget. Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna said that while the Foreign Ministry's share in Estonia's €16-billion state budget is just €110 million, solidarity needs to be demonstrated.
He assured ERR that no embassies will be closed.
"We will be cutting back on the bureaucracy side of things, mainly staff, while quality will be retained," he said.
Tsahkna remarked that while consular services may be revisited, the number of embassies will not fall.
Host Johannes Tralla also asked the minister to what extent Estonian diplomats are asked about PM Kaja Kallas' Russia business scandal.
"There are questions, while the main topics are the ones that require common decisions, whether we're talking about sanctions, frozen assets or the tribunal. Looking at the bigger picture – inevitably, we prioritize things that seem important to us here in Estonia – we must keep in mind that there is a government crisis in Latvia, elections looming in Poland and Lithuania. There is a lot of domestic politics tension, especially in countries neighboring Russia," the minister said.
Tsahkna said that Estonia's interest is to demonstrate stability, explain the domestic situation. "It is clear that doing business with Russia is morally wrong. Estonia has said it, and the PM will continue sending the same message. We must stand for Ukraine and secure our own independence. So there will need to be a domestic debate and answers, as foreign policy is a long-term process."
Tsahkna said that Estonia's diplomats are repeating Kallas' message when explaining the scandal, adding that it is largely seen as a matter of domestic politics in Estonia.
The minister said that he will soon take to the government and parliament draft legislation on how to use frozen Russian assets.
Tsahkna remarked that no other European country really dares talk about it. "Our actions go beyond serving as a moral beacon and compass, and Estonia's foreign policy has not changed one bit here. On the contrary, we are looking at new and forceful steps, and it takes a lot of work to maintain them," he said.
Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski