Estonians in the US appeal against the NY consulate closure

Tens of Estonians in the United States have signed an appeal against the closure of the Estonian consulate general in New York City.

“Media reports may have given the impression that the purpose of the consulate general has only been to offer consular services to those Estonians in need of emergency assistance, and that these functions could easily be implemented through the UN mission, the embassy in Washington or the honorary consuls: that it was just an issue of logistics. However, the role of the consulate general has been much more considerable than just handling documents,” the signatories write.

“While presence in Washington is important due to the governmental institutions there, New York cannot be ignored for its role in cultivating strong relations in business, start-ups and the technology sector, communal contacts and cultural relations.”

“The consulate general has for many years been at the core of developing Estonia’s economic relations in the New York region, particularly in the start-up and technology sectors. In recent years, under the leadership of immensely entrepreneurial consuls general, it has been key in establishing and brokering numerous contacts, bringing together Estonian start-ups as well as large companies with a variety of investors and business partners on the East coast of the United States, including New York City government, the New York Angels network of more than 100 New York venture capitalists, and many others.” 

A strong contribution to the promotion of Estonia

“Events organised by the consulate general have also widely promoted the e-residency program and the e-Residents Club, which was set up to increase Estonia’s visibility. The consulate general’s active participation has strongly contributed to the promotion of Estonia in the financial hotspot of New York as a compact and open business environment.”

Estonia’s digital society ad at the Nasdaq MarketSite, Times Square, New York City, in 2014.

The writers of the appeal also say that the consulate general has arranged for prominent Estonian cultural representatives, such as the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Vox Clamantis, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and many others to perform in New York’s leading concert halls, and to showcase the work of Estonian artists in galleries there, not to mention local initiatives such as the New York Baltic Film Festival.

“It is largely as a result of the efforts by the consulate general that an Estonian has been appointed as the head of the New York based European Union National Institutes for Culture. All of which goes to show that the consulate general has been extremely effective in introducing Estonian music, film, art and culture to an extensive and influential New York audience.”

Arvo Pärt, Tõnu Kaljuste and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 2014. Photo by Eleri Ever.

According to the signatories, New York and its wider region has a very active and large Estonian community, whose activities as a community are closely linked to the consulate general. 

“Thanks to this activity, it has been feasible to keep the Estonian diaspora alive here, and to keep us involved in the life of the Estonian state. Under the leadership of the consulate general, our entire community has learned to see itself as unofficial ambassadors of Estonia, creating a positive image of Estonia for Americans on a daily basis.”

The consulate cannot be underestimated

The signatories say the plan to close the consulate general is very unexpected and unfortunate for the large and active Estonian community in the East Coast. 

“The consulate general has been preserving the Estonian identity in the New York area for decades, as well as developing ever-strengthening cultural and business ties between Estonia and the United States. We all recognise that the allocation of resources should be scrutinised in the light of efficiency of various governmental functions, but the activities of the consulate general in New York cannot be underestimated – it is a consistent investment in the successful future of Estonia.”

Diplomat Ernst Jaakson (1905-1998) at his desk in the Estonian consulate general in New York City. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

The signatories hope that the Estonian government and the foreign ministry will find a way to continue the activities of the consulate general in New York in the future.

Among the signatories are the leaders of various Estonian organisations in the East Coast, and also a number of well-known private individuals – including opera singer Ain Anger, artist Uno Habakukk, conductors Paavo, Neeme and Kristjan Järvi, artist Mark Kostabi, composer Erki-Sven Tüür, and many others.

The Estonian foreign ministry on 26 September announced that it will close the country’s consulates general in New York City, NY, and San Francisco, CA.

Read also: Renee Meriste: Estonia should open rather than close consulates in the US, Sten Hankewitz: By closing the NYC consulate, Estonia is eliminating its own history and Estonians in the US shocked over consulate closure.

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