The Estonian community in the US wants the government to retain at least one consulate general open. They think the state's action will rather bring disappointment to the Estonian government than save money.
Ambassador Kristjan Prikk said that unlike many other agencies, the Foreign Ministry does not have much room for maneuver when it comes to cuts, as most of its budget is fixed.
"Expenses for the maintenance of family members of diplomatic delegations, including the cost of children's education, the cost of living locally for spouses or partners, etc. So we cannot look only at the costs directly related to the employees themselves," Prikk told ERR.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna has said that closing the consulates in New York and San Francisco will save €1.2 million a year.
Each consulate currently has two diplomats plus a secretary who was hired locally. All six contracts will be terminated.
Meanwhile, the ministry is creating an additional consular diplomat post in the embassy in Washington.
Merike Barborak, an Estonian expatriate, said they could do that work in New York instead, which would allow the consulate to remain open. The cost of living in Washington, she said, is not so much lower that there would be significant savings.
"If the consul goes to New York for a consular visit, all the travel and lodging costs will build up in a couple of years, and there will be no savings," Barborak said.
She said that the consulate service are used not only by New York residents. People from further away often have to take time off work and stay in hotels to get documents in order.
"If this passport costs a thousand dollars, it will be not paid for. This passport will be lost, so to say, and the Estonian state will lose its citizens. And speaking of tourists, nobody goes to Washington. Tourists come to New York. If something happens here with the documents, where is the help?" Barborak said.
There were seven such emergencies in New York last year: honorary consuls may also issue temporary travel documents. Also efforts are made to guide people to the nation's electronic services.
"We give ID card readers to people along with their ID card, to make it easy for them to start using it and to encourage them to use it," Prikk said.
The ambassador said that the members of the community could also offer ideas on how to boost the use of e-services among Estonians abroad.
Editor: Kristina Kersa