Deputy Riigikogu Speaker and former Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), said that the government's decision to close consulates in New York and San Francisco undermines Estonia's business diplomacy efforts as well as the ability to support Estonian citizens.
"I clearly remember the discussions in the government in 2018 about strengthening business diplomacy on the U.S. West Coast. We collectively agreed that opening a consulate was a necessary step to connect with the local community and support Estonian businesses there. I do not approve of the decision to close it next summer," Ratas told ERR.
"The closure of the Consulate General of Estonia in San Francisco is yet another blow from the government to business diplomacy, which follows a similar negative pattern as the decision not to participate in the Osaka Expo in 2025," Ratas said.
The great value of the San Francisco consulate, Ratas said, lies in its proximity to Silicon Valley, the world's largest tech hub, as well as to both Stanford and Berkeley universities, which are among the world's elite educational establishments.
"I would have instead expected the government to decide that Estonia's business diplomacy efforts would also be developed on the West Coast in Los Angeles, which is growing to be an increasingly important economic region. Nor is it insignificant that, in 2028, the 34th Summer Olympics will be held in Los Angeles," Ratas said.
Ratas pointed out that the Consulate General of Estonia in New York's role is to address the concerns of Estonians in the U.S. and its closure will have an adverse impact on those services.
"Secondly, the New York Consulate has also been working to build our business diplomacy links. Thirdly, and by far the worst factor of all - it was during the hard times of the occupation that Ernst Jaakson was [Estonian] consul general in New York and so the closure of the consulate represents a blow to the continuity of our diplomacy," Ratas added.
On Tuesday, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it is set to lay off 45 staff members and close the consulates general in New York and San Francisco from summer 2024. Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) has been the most vocal supporter of budget cuts among members of Kaja Kallas' (Reform) current government.
Editor: Michael Cole