The network of diplomatic missions and consular posts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia is instrumental for strengthening the links connecting Latvia with our compatriots living abroad, the diaspora organisations and the media – which includes building and sustaining a dialogue. In view of the massive emigration flow over the past two decades, cooperation with the Latvian diaspora has become one of the priorities of the Foreign Ministry work aimed at promoting political and civic participation of the diaspora, preserving Latvian identity and bonds with Latvia, and strengthening cooperation with compatriots abroad.
According to estimates by the Foreign Ministry for 2012, about 370,000 Latvian nationals are permanently residing outside Latvia, most of them having emigrated in the past decade (in approximate figures, there being considerable differences between the data quoted by the Population Register, foreign authorities, and diplomatic missions). Positive trends have been observed since 2011: according to the Central Statistical Bureau, outbound migration has decreased, and the numbers Latvian citizens and ‘non-citizens’ returning to Latvia are growing. At the same time, the Latvian diaspora abroad is increasing. The largest Latvian communities are those in the U.K., the USA, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Norway, and Spain.
The Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy for 2012-2018 is government document which defines cooperation with diaspora as one of the action lines for government to follow. The Ministry of Culture is in charge of coordinating the implementation of the guidelines. The document assigns responsibility for diaspora policy to the diaspora Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economy, and other competent public institutions, which are to cooperate with social partners and non-governmental organisations, especially Latvian organisations and communities.
The aim of the diaspora policy is not only to support, but also cooperate with compatriots abroad. The engagement of the diaspora’s intellectual resource and experience can benefit Latvia in terms of valuable information, and give rise to cooperation projects in the field of economy, education and culture, building on the mutual interests of Latvia and the Latvian diaspora, and benefits from that cooperation. In 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its report On Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Latvian diaspora in 2013 – 2015, set out four lines of action: facilitating the civic and political engagement of the diaspora; preserving the diaspora’s bonds with Latvia and Latvian identity; promoting cooperation with the diaspora in business, science, education, and culture; and providing support for those who wish to return to Latvia.
On 16 November 2012, the Council of Demographic Affairs made a decision that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in association with the Ministry of Culture set up a permanent working group/a council within the Monitoring Council for the Implementation of the Guidelines on National Identity, Civil Society and Integration Policy. The working group would be responsible for ensuring that a long-term, well-coordinated policy is pursued in the diaspora matters. The Diaspora Policy Working Group was established in October 2013 for the implementation of the national Identity Guidelines under supervision of the Monitoring Council. The Working Group is chaired by the Foreign Ministry in association with the Ministry of Culture, which functions as a secretariat.