On 6 February 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a meeting of the diaspora policy working group. Representatives from public institutions, diaspora organisations and their cooperation partners discussed the budget in support of the diaspora and regional development measures expected to promote return migration. They also shared information on the process of drafting the diaspora law, the implementation of a roadmap adopted at the Congress of European Latvians, the World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum (WLEIF) to be held in Valmiera on 28-29 June, and other topics important for the diaspora.
The meeting was chaired by Atis Sjanīts, the Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador-at-Large for the Diaspora, who noted that the Latvian community abroad has never been as large and diverse as it is today. A legislative framework is needed for cooperation between the state and the diaspora. The purpose of the diaspora law is to make a point that cooperation with Latvians living abroad and support for those who would like to return is the responsibility of the state. The Foreign Ministry also welcomes the involvement of the diaspora organisations in the formulation of the legislation in order to ensure a systemic approach to sustainable cooperation between the state and the diaspora. The creation of a legal framework in support of the Latvian diaspora is instrumental to fostering a clear relationship between the state and its diaspora in the long term.
In his introductory remarks, Ambassador Atis Sjanīts congratulated Kristīne Saulīte on assuming the post of the Chairperson of the Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) and emphasised that, by appointing her, the WFFL Board had confirmed its appreciation of Kristīne Saulīte’s work as the Chairperson of the Latvian Federation in Australia and New Zealand and the Vice Chairperson of the WFFL. Kristīne Saulīte has succeeded the federation’s former chairman, Jānis Kukainis. Both the Foreign Ministry and other public institutions, as well as the WFFL as a diaspora organisation are to face a similar challenge over the coming years – that of strengthening cooperation between the state and the diaspora.
The diaspora-related budget has increased this year due to funding allocated in support of education in the Latvian language and about Latvia. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Culture, and the Society Integration Fund shared information on the allocation of funds made available for assistance to the diaspora this year and the next. Members of the working group agreed that the funding channelled into the implementation of the diaspora policy should be included in the general budget of the state in order to ensure long-term planning and sustainability of support for the diaspora.
Raivis Bremšmits, Director of the Regional Policy Department at the Ministry of Regional Development and Environmental Protection (MRDEP), introduced the audience to the current regional development measures conducive to remigration and presented a pilot project which envisages posting regional coordinators for the new policy initiative in each of the planning regions from this February onwards. Under the pilot project, a support programme for remigrants will be launched in entrepreneurship and starting their own business after they have returned to their former place of residence: in each of the planning regions, assistance will be offered to four applicants, the maximum funding awarded per project being 9000 euro. The outputs of the pilot project are expected to help better apprehend the scope of support and the amount of funds required by return migration.
Elīna Pinto, Vice Chair of the Presidium of the European Latvian Association (ELA), updated the audience on what has been achieved with the implementation of resolutions adopted by the Congress of European Latvians and measures set out in the roadmap. She called for delivering on the initiatives that are of current relevance to Latvians not only in Europe but also across the globe. The implementation of the roadmap launched by the congress held in Riga and Stockholm in July last year will include the organisation of the next event.
Those present at the meeting were assured that the Foreign Ministry would support, as before, the annual World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum (WLEIF). The goals of the forum is to foster knowledge exchange and practical interaction between business professionals active in Latvia with like-minded professionals elsewhere in the world, and to facilitate business networking and attract innovation, finance and knowledge opportunities to Latvia, thereby allowing business professionals and entrepreneurs of Latvian heritage to strengthen their sense of belonging to Latvia.
The organisation of WLEIF has also been supported by the WFFL. This year’s forum is one of the events dedicated to the centenary of Latvia. It will feature a discussion on the opportunities for exports to the USA and Asia and the practical aspects of return migration with respect to business activities. Those wishing to attend the forum are requested to register their interest and follow the event-related updates on the portal http://ieguldilatvija.lv/ .
The meeting of the working group was attended by the members of the WFFL Board and of the ELA Presidium, as well as officials from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economy, the MRDEP, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, the Society Integration Fund, the Centre for the Diaspora and Migration Research (the University of Latvia), the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, and a return migrants’ association, “Ar pasaules pieredzi Latvijā”.
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