Renee Meriste: Estonia should open rather than close consulates in the US

Estonian consulates serve as representatives and guardians of Estonia’s freedom and it’s beyond comprehension as to why Estonia opted to close its consulates in New York City and San Francisco, Renee Meriste, the president of the Estonian Society of Los Angeles, writes.

The strongest guarantee of freedom and a free country lies in the unwavering commitment of its population to uphold and protect the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

To safeguard this freedom, it is imperative to cultivate personal relationships with individuals and nations worldwide that share our common values and beliefs.

The United States of America has been a staunch advocate of Estonia, acknowledging our independence even when other nations did not. Over the last 20 months, they have also provided the lead support to Ukraine amidst the ongoing conflict, a fact widely recognised. Due to the ramifications of this conflict, our close neighbours and allies in Finland decided to take the next step and join NATO.

It is evident that NATO and the United States are invaluable partners for any nation that aspires to maintain its freedom.

This is why it is beyond comprehension for many of us as to why Estonia opted to close its consulates in New York City and San Francisco.

The Estonian consulate general in New York City is located in this building at 305 E 47th Street.
The Estonian consulate general in New York City is located in this building at 305 E 47th Street.

Now is the time to establish new consulates rather than closing

Rather than closing, now is the opportune moment to expand and nurture these relationships with the American people and nation. Establishing new consulates in cities like Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta and Austin would have been the logical next step and should have been a vital component of the 2024 state budget.

Considering the growth we have achieved and the sacrifices made to secure our freedom in 1991 after 46 years of oppression, it is impossible to fathom the possibility of a return to those dark times. Many of us firmly believe such a regression must never happen again. However, there is concern that even within our most trusted offices, relations with Russia continue, notwithstanding Russia’s ongoing bombing of innocent people in a nation similar to ours – once oppressed and then granted freedom.

As a nation deeply rooted in its cultural values, we often prioritise sentimental reasons. However, it’s essential to underscore that our primary goal in establishing consulates here in America is to safeguard Estonian freedom and security. While fostering business relationships and addressing practical needs are crucial, the fundamental objective remains the protection of our nation’s independence and security as a democratic country.

Consulates serve as Estonia’s presence in America, ensuring that our nation is known and recognised, thereby guaranteeing our freedom for both present and future generations.

The Masters of Our Own Homes exhibition in Chicago. Photo by Sten Hankewitz.
The Masters of Our Own Homes exhibition in Chicago, dedicated to Estonia’s centenary celebration in 2018. Estonia should establish new consulates in cities like Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta and Austin, Renee Meriste argues. Photo by Sten Hankewitz.

Relationships are the cornerstone, not just in business but in all aspects of life, including the pursuit of freedom. It is a widely held belief that when you know someone better, you treat them better. This underscores the profound importance of building relationships. Consulates play a crucial role in fostering these relationships, benefiting us in every aspect of life.

Positive relationships serve as the key to unlocking not only business success but also the preservation of freedom and liberty. They enable a deeper understanding and connection among individuals and nations. Shifting the focus from self-centred interests towards contributing to others and fostering collaborative efforts in business and beyond is essential for achieving these broader goals.

Estonia’s potential frequently goes untapped

Estonia holds considerable potential for the United States, but this potential frequently goes untapped because of a failure to nurture relationships and a hesitancy to learn. It is crucial to express gratitude to those who support us and to actively seek out individuals who have the ability to foster connections based on genuine moral values.

Ernst Jaakson, an Estonian diplomat whose contribution was to maintain Estonia’s legal continuity with his uninterrupted diplomatic service for 69 years, meeting Nancy and Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. on 1 July 1984. Jaakson worked at Estonia’s New York consulate that the country is planning to close. Photo by the Estonian foreign ministry.

Estonia is steadfast in its commitment to maintaining its freedom, and it is my belief that the current Estonian government shares these same values. Rather than closing, I hope we all work to encourage Estonia to expand its presence in the United States, further strengthening the bond between the two nations.

I am confident that the Estonian community living in America, as well as Estonian friends across the United States, will wholeheartedly contribute to these efforts and provide their support in every possible way.

Read also: Sten Hankewitz: By closing the NYC consulate, Estonia is eliminating its own history

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