Estonian government saves its embassies

  • 1998-09-03
  • By Urmas Maranik
TALLINN - The Estonian government allocated 3 million kroons ($214,200) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aug. 18 to cover the shortcomings of its foreign representations' maintenance costs.

This sum would hardly cover all the needs as the ministry had applied for 11.8 million kroons.

According to Riho Kruuv, the deputy chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the required maintenance expenditure for 1998 was calculated at 172 million kroons, but the government could allocate only 160.4 million kroons from the state budget.

In July, Kruuv considered closing some diplomatic offices because of insufficient financing, but many worried his decision would have had a negative effect on Estonia's international reputation.

"A statement of this kind could cause controversy for the country in question. Discontinuing the activities of foreign missions is a difficult step that could mean serious foreign policy consequences for Estonia," Kruuv said.

For now, the worst seems to be over, but the government should in the future consider very carefully allocating the applied amounts for its embassies abroad, Kruuv said.

According to Eino Tamm, the director of the Parliament's foreign commission, the reaction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been too emotional. "The situation was not so critical as the ministry displayed," Tamm said. "The government can always ask to delay the rent so that it could be covered next year, therefore the additional financing is not so crucial." Tamm admitted though that closure of embassies leaves Estonia in a negative light.

In 1996, Estonia had 25 missions abroad. By the end of last year, the number increased to 32. New embassies were opened in The Hague, Madrid, Dublin, Lisbon, Beijing, Athens and Prague.

In 1998, the government established representations at NATO in Brussels and opened a consular office in Berlin. The government also decided to appoint an ambassador to Rome before the end of this year.

Though the number of representation offices grew considerably, financing of 1998 maintenance costs increased by only 4 percent. The allocated 3 million kroons will now enable the government to replace diplomats abroad who had returned according to a rotation system. For a month or so, some Estonian embassies worked under full capacity.