RIGA - The current situation in the consular service is precarious, as staff numbers have been cut due to insufficient funding, while the volume of work has remained at the previous level, said Foreign Ministry Deputy State Secretary Alda Vanaga in an interview with Latvian State Radio, reports news agency LETA. The number of consular workers has been cut by 48 percent, while at the same time the demand for visas has grown by 3 percent overall, and in some places by as much as 155 percent.
According to current data, there are 25 Latvian embassies which are staffed by only two people - an ambassador and a consular diplomat. However, Vanaga expressed certainty that no Latvian embassies would be closed due to insufficient funding.
At some embassies, for example in the U.K. and Russia, staff are not able to deal with the 180-200 visitors each day. According to Vanaga, there is great interest in Latvia as a tourist destination, but after standing in a queue for a day and not receiving a visa, many people are unwilling to return to try again. They instead choose another country as their holiday destination.
The 300,000 lats (428,500 euros) promised by the government to the Foreign Ministry this year would allow the selection and training of around 40 new consular workers; however, it is necessary to know now what funding will be available for next year, otherwise it would not be effective or appropriate to invest money in the training of these employees, explained Vanaga.
The Cabinet this week allocated an additional 286,459 lats from the budget for emergency situations to the Foreign Ministry to improve the activity of the state consular service.