As the government discusses ways to strengthen Estonia's foreign service, there is the matter of potentially expanding the scope of its activities as well. The International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) presented a report on the state and perspectives of Estonia's foreign service last week which pointed out that beyond foreign policy and defence, there is another area where Estonia's diplomats could be more active, namely trade.
According to the report, adding this dimension to the aims of Estonia's foreign policy could prove beneficial. So far, the country's diplomatic efforts have been based on parliamentary consensus in terms of the country's foreign policy, and have concentrated on an apolitical, professionally run Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as a diplomatic service that lives up to the same standards.
The ICDS' report, commissioned by the Foreign Affairs Committee and introduced to the Riigikogu by ICDS research fellow Kalev Stoicescu, states that while defence cooperation has been one of the central aims of Estonia's foreign policy, trade so far hasn't played a dominant role. At the same time, the foreign service can work as a means to promote Estonia as a business environment for investors, and to shift its reputation away from a low-wage economy to one that focuses on research and development.
As Stoicescu pointed out to ERR News last week, using the foreign service to strengthen and promote the national economy is already established practice in plenty of countries.
For example, Israel has had great successes using its network to attract research and development firms and departments. But there are also several countries in the Baltic-Nordic area that are making good use of their diplomatic presences for the development of economic ties and trade: Lithuania has 45 trade attaches working at its various embassies abroad. Both Denmark and Finland have successfully implemented a similar approach. Other possible measures include a renewed focus and a greater role of eg. honorary consuls on business development.
Stoicescu points out that while there is great competency in Estonia in terms of international cooperation in the field of defence, there so far isn't a comparable knowledge base anywhere in the state's authorities regarding trade.
Members of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed the report and stressed the necessity for a broader debate of the topic at the state as well as the private level.
Editor: Dario Cavegn