December 2, 2016
Courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia

On 1 December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a meeting of the working group for diaspora policy issues chaired by Atis Sjanīts, Ambassador-at-Large for the Diaspora. At the meeting, the European Latvian Association presented plans for the European Latvian Congress of 2017, and the World Federation of Free Latvians presented an overview of the involvement of the diaspora in Latvia’s economic development.

Kristaps Grasis, Chairperson of the European Latvian Association, told the participants about the first European Latvian Congress to be held in 2017 with a view to strengthening civic awareness of Latvian nationals living in other European countries and their link with Latvia. The congress, scheduled for 28-30 July 2017, will begin and be concluded in Riga, while its main programme is to take place on board a Riga–Stockholm–Riga ferry, thus symbolizing the diaspora’s path in the world and its strong connection with Latvia.

A member of the ELA executive board for diaspora policy affairs, Elīna Pinto, spoke about the significance of the congress and gave an overview of its events. Invited to participate are Latvians living in Europe and elsewhere in the world, Latvian non-governmental organisations and representatives from companies, think-tanks, local and central government authorities who wish to address the diaspora Latvians and look at their perspective of the issues of public, economic, cultural and intellectual life important for Latvia.

A “Centenary Roadmap” will be developed at the congress as a dedication from the diaspora to Latvia’s growth in its second centenary and presenting the diaspora’s outlook and knowledge acquired through international experience in various sectors, as well as their initiatives targeting Latvia’s future.

Researcher Ieva Birka informed the working group members about the recent activities of the World Federation of Free Latvians and contribution from the diaspora to Latvian economy. She spoke about the World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum taking place in Australia this year and the forum events scheduled for 2017 with the focus on the role of the diaspora in promoting exports from Latvia and attracting investments.

In her presentation of a study carried out by the WFFL, which included interviews with the diaspora members of the Prime Minister’s Diaspora Business Advisory Council, Ieva Birka noted that research both reveals problems encountered by business people in Latvia and outlines prospects and new initiatives to promote the involvement of the diaspora in Latvia’s economy. The council members have highlighted their priorities – the establishment of a global database for Latvians and drawing up a diaspora communication strategy.

The working group members shared their views on the networking opportunities among Latvian professionals. As the Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador-at-Large for the Diaspora, Atis Sjanīts, welcomed the initiatives that the ELA has undertaken and carried through, he also stressed the need for ensuring continuity of such activities. The Ministry of Economy informed the group about the work of the Investment and Development Agency, including the prospective creation of a Latvian professionals’ database.

The participants of the meeting recognised that a number of diaspora networking initiatives have been launched, and it is important at this point for the diaspora NGOs and the involved institutions in Latvia to ensure mutual exchange of information and to focus on further action.

Taking part in the working group meeting were representatives from the World Federation of Free Latvians, the European Latvian Association, the Ministries of Culture, Education and Science, and Economy, the Latvian Language Agency, the Society Integration Foundation, the Centre for Diaspora Studies of the University of Latvia, the Latvian National Culture Centre, the National Centre for Education, and the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments.