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(Oct. 25, 2023) The Estonian American National Council (EANC) hosted a virtual town hall yesterday evening, October 24, to share information about actions taken to date in response to the announced closures of the Estonian Consulates General in New York and San Francisco on September 26 and to take additional statements of impact.
Over 50 people attended, including officials and representatives of various organizations, geographical regions of the expansive US, and individual community members, with many speaking up to convey their dismay and anger. Many community leaders as well as private citizens raised specific impacts for which no solutions have been offered by the Estonian government.
Attendees were skeptical of the claimed budget savings from the cuts and the ability of the dedicated volunteer network of Honorary Consuls to pick up the workload of career diplomats, and are not assuaged by plans to add staff at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C. It was expressed that Estonia would have a decreased footprint and visibility among the nations of the world. Attendees saw the closures as resulting in broken relationships, lost connectedness and opportunities, and investments thrown away. The closures would ultimately impact Estonian American support for Estonia, and thereby Estonian security.
After the event, EANC President Mai-Liis Bartling noted: `From a practical perspective, this move will make capturing the American public’s attention and representing Estonian interests in the U.S. harder at all levels.” EANC intends to continue presenting the case for keeping the Consulates General in San Francisco and New York open and with a physical presence not only for the benefit of Estonians in the United States, but ultimately for the Republic of Estonia. Additional impact statements can be submitted ([email protected]) through the end of October. At the request of attendees, EANC is planning to host a second town hall on this important topic.