Honorary consul protects citizens abroad and promotes business


There are more than 20 000 honorary consuls worldwide. The Republic of Estonia alone has appointed over 180 persons in 84 different countries to act as honorary consuls. What are the main functions of these men and women and what can the honorary consul do for entrepreneurs?

The activities of honorary consuls are regulated by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. An honorary consul acts on a voluntary basis, i.e. without receiving remuneration from the sending state. Compared with a public servant employed in a diplomatic post or a professional consular officer, the authority and functions of honorary consul are significantly narrower.

The status and functions of honorary consuls are somewhat different in different countries but the main functions of honorary consuls are prescribed by Article 5 of the Vienna Conventionas follows:

  • protecting the interests of the receiving state and of its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate;
  • helping and assisting nationals of the sending state upon compliance with the law and regulations of the receiving state, including administration of justice, immigration, health care, passports and other matters;
  • monitoring the commercial, economic, cultural and scientific situation and development of the receiving state by lawful means and forwarding the corresponding information to the government of the sending state and interested parties;
  • furthering the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the sending state and the receiving state and otherwise promoting friendly relations and cooperation between the states.

While Estonian honorary consuls provide consular services and consular assistance within the competence determined pursuant to the Consular Act by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, then in many states these activities have been left only to professional consular officers and the main function of honorary consuls is promoting bilateral economic and cultural relations. Possessing good knowledge of local conditions, they often assist the entrepreneurs of the sending state in finding business contacts and meetings in the receiving state and in providing information on the sending state to interested parties.

In everyday life, honorary consuls are active in many different areas – most of them are entrepreneurs, but many also work in the field of education, science, law or culture.

The institution of honorary consuls is a very good possibility also for smaller countries to have a worldwide representation and contact network. For example, insular state Iceland has appointed over 250 honorary consuls. For bigger countries often several honorary consuls are appointed and then they each have their geographically determined consular district.

Tõnis Tamme

Attorney-at-law, Partner

Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia in Estonia

Comments are closed.