Three high-ranking Estonian diplomats visited Houston in September for the opening of the new Estonian honorary consular office for Texas. They were Urmas Paet, foreign minister of Estonia, Väino Reinart, the Estonian ambassador to the United States and Jaanus Kirikmäe, the consul general from New York. On this occasion the recently appointed honorary consul, Richard Drake, held a reception at his home to which the various honorary consuls in Houston and all Estonian residing in Texas were invited.
As is the tradition the reception allowed other honorary consuls meet their fellow consul. In the same way it gave Mr. Drake a chance to meet the people whom he would be serving.
Mr. and Mrs. Drake live in a mansion on the outskirts of Houston in a park-like setting. The home is decorated with 18th century old master paintings from England, France and Italy, a feast for the eyes. Over 50 people attended the almost royal reception, of which the better part of the attendees were Estonians with their spouses. Among the Estonians were many of the younger generation, people who for various reasons had emigrated here recently here. The honorary councils present represented Sweden, Lithuania, Norway, Greece and many other countries. Russia did not seem to be represented. Hors d'oeuvres were served and for the delight of every Estonian present, Vana Tallinn liqueur.
For the Estonians the reception gave an unusual opportunity not only to meet our new honorary consul, but also three of Estonia’s top diplomats. The invitations to Estonians of Texas was coordinated by the chair of the Estonian Society of Houston, Helen (Jürlau) Arnold. The result was that in attendance were Estonians from all major population centers of Texas: San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. In contrast with many other gathering of Estonians on this continent, the younger generation outnumbered the older. This shows the importance of having youthful leadership.
Mr. Paet gave a short speech, in which he said that the appointment of an honorary consul to Texas is in conjunction with Estonia’s effort to extend a network of honorary consuls all over the world. He reiterated the high expectations of Mr. Drake’s appointment given his experience in business and his love for culture and art. Mr. Paet presented a guest book to Mr. Drake.
Following the words by minister Paet, Mr. Drake thanked him for the honor of his appointment, and then introduced Indrek Laul, his personal friend. Indrek Laul is a well-known pianist. He graduated from Juilliard School of Music with honors and is the owner of the piano factory, Eesti Piano. The factory produces 200 high quality pianos each year, which are sought after worldwide. Indrek Laul played two selections for the guests: ´Für Alina´ by Arvo Pärt and ´Rhapsody in Blue´ by George Gershwin. The hall had superb acoustic qualities and the guests were very appreciative of the performance.
At the reception an occasion arose when I was able to converse briefly with Mr. Paet. This developed into a mini interview on the cancellation of the plans for Polish and Czech Republic missile installations. Would it not show that the Obama administration is perhaps reducing emphasis on Eastern Europe? Is there a cooling of relations?
Mr. Paet said absolutely not. He said that all must not be viewed as something tied to Russia, though President Medvedev has voiced his joy over the decision. Not everything is about Russia. Estonia and United States continue to work closely together, and the relationship is as tight as it has ever been. He said that he had just met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor of the Unites States James Jones, Madeline Albright and other important figures of international relations in U.S., and that the U.S. assistant secretary of State Gordon visited Tallinn in August. He added that Estonia’s security was never tied to the missile shield, but rather to NATO through a strong alliance.
I asked about Estonia’s continued involvement in the Middle East. Is it not unpopular? Mr. Paet said that at the present moment Estonia has only three people in Iraq for liaison. Involvement in Afghanistan is much greater. Estonian population is about 50 – 50 for and against for involvement there. However Mr. Paet added: is it not better to fight terrorists there rather than closer to home.
The guests were very satisfied with the reception. We were convinced that given the very wide experience of our new honorary consul in the matter of business and art, we could expect strengthening commercial and cultural ties between Texas and Estonia. At the same time the reception allowed to draw together Estonians from the whole of Texas, which is quite remarkable given that Texas is 15 times larger that Estonia. The chair of the Estonian Society of Houston is planning a gathering in November.
(Mr. Drake was featured in Estonian in the October 2nd issue of this paper.)
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Texas