Using the additional funding set out in the fiscal strategy approved by the government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to reopen the Estonian Embassy in Budapest, establish missions in the United Arab Emirates and n the U.S. West Coast, and raise diplomats' salaries.
"It is the government's wish to strengthen the ability of the Foreign Ministry to realize the foreign and security policy priorities important to Estonia, to help ensure the well-being of our people and strive towards the realization of economic interests," Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) said in a ministry press release. "Based on this, the government has decided to allocate €14 million for the strengthening of the foreign service, ensuring security and protecting economic interests in the years 2019-2022."
According to the minister, Estonia had a successful presidency of the Council of the EU and has acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience over the past 14 years, and now it was time to put these skills to more active use than before. "For this, the Foreign Ministry will strengthen its missions in major European capitals over the next four years," he said.
"Policy with regard to the Western Balkans will be one of the most central topics for the EU in the next few years, which requires from us to be represented and to be even more active in that region," the minister said.
"In ensuring Estonia's economic development, increasing exports and attracting foreign investments, we must be even more ambitious, and with the national fiscal strategy we have received substantive additional means for that," Mikser continued. "The most important of these is establishing a representation in the UAE. We have chosen that location based on the wishes of our businesses. By doing this, we will be able to participate more in the region's foreign and security policy processes, offer our citizens more effective protection as well as promote the development of tourism."
According to the minister, a diplomatic mission is to be opened on the U.S. West Coast sometime in the next few years to promote Estonia's economic interests and support the activities of Estonian companies. The mission would enable the ministry to better serve Estonian citizens in that rapidly developing region.
The ministry also wants to contribute more to cyber and digital diplomacy in order to support the activity of Estonian businesses as well as contribute to Estonia's digital projects in development aid and international cooperation.
Ministry payroll to increase
"In order to improve the competitiveness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an employer and better motivate employees, the Foreign Ministry's payroll is to increase next year already — by €1.4 million," Mikser said, adding that the ministry intends to continue working toward the needs of the foreign service receiving sufficient attention and adequate additional financing in future budget discussions as well.
The total size of the ministry's 2018 budget is €76.1 million, €11.9 million of which is earmarked for development aid, €11.8 million for investments and €6.2 million for membership fees in various international organizations.
The ministry's 2019 budget, including the extra funding endorsed as part of the fiscal strategy, is to total €72.6 million. The total size of next year's budget is to shrink as investments to be financed in 2019 will be smaler than this year, ministry spokespeople told BNS.
Editor: Aili Vahtla