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Tsahkna: We could put the last dot on the 'i' in funding of Toronto center

"Keskus" in Toronto. Source: ERR

Promoters say the Estonian Center in Toronto, "Keskus," will be the boldest and most distinctive of its kind when it opens in 2025, but construction is still short of €4 million. Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said that the state can contribute.

The "KESKUS" international Estonian Center in downtown Toronto will be a dynamic hub showcasing Estonian heritage and promoting Estonian innovation.

At the annual big foreign policy debate in the Riigikogu, Reform MP Signe Kivi asked Foreign Minister Tsahkna (Eesti 200) whether the state intends to help with the last bit of financing for the completion of the Estonian Center in Toronto.

"My question is about our softer foreign policy, specifically about the International Estonian Center in Toronto ("KESKUS"), which will be completed in 2025. /.../ It costs more than €32 million and has received widespread support from people around the world. And my question is – as the project is about €4 million too short – how and in what ways will the Estonian state support Estonian communities abroad, and will it participate in the operations of the Toronto Estonian Center?"

The discussion comes in light of the government's decision last year to close two foreign consulates in San Francisco and New York as part of budget cuts. "In my role as the minister, the first trips I made were to our communities in Sweden, in Washington, in New York, and also in Toronto," the minister said. "I also visited the Estonian Cultural Center ("Keskus", currently under construction) and I'm well aware of the fact that, yes, a little less than €4 million are currently lacking," he said.

"I take this opportunity, here in the most important foreign policy speech of the year, to thank all those people, all those Estonians, but also friends of Estonia, who helped to raise over €30 million necessary for its construction," the minister said.

Tsahkna said that he is considering funding the final part of the construction. "I have been thinking about it, and I have also discussed it here [the Riigikogu] that we as a country can put the last dot on the 'i' so that this construction can be completed," the minister said.

Officially named the KESKUS International Estonian Center, the project is expected to become not only a headquarters for global internationalization but also an architectural gem in the fourth largest city in North America. Former ambassador Toomas Lukk affectionately dubbed the center "the Estonians' project of the century." Its heart is composed entirely of glass, and the atrium itself is designed to resemble a map of Estonia.

The three-story, 3,000-square-meter building, which will house a concert hall, library, classrooms, office space, bistro and roof terrace is budgeted to cost CAN$47 million, or just over €32 million.

Of this, more than $14 million came from the sale of the old building, more than $19 million from more than 700 private donors from around the world, another $8 million from founders and loans, nearly $1 million from the Canadian government, while about $4 million is still missing.

The promoters insist that this is not just Estonian House 2.0 but an international center of Estonianism. "Toronto is the capital of foreign Estonia, and it has become so for many reasons, and this center underlines that," the project manager said.

There are approximately 200,000 people of Estonian descent living outside of Estonia, of whom 27,000 live in Canada, with 7,000 residing in Toronto.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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