Entry into EU spurs repatriation from West

Latvia’s decision to join the European Union may be swaying more Latvians in the West to repatriate, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs. More than half of those who returned to Latvia during the first half of this year were from Western nations.

In an October referendum, Latvian voters approved their country’s entry into the EU. Membership was finalized May 1.

And that, the citizenship and migration affairs office said July 16, may be why an increasing percentage of Latvians from the West are choosing to return.

“Westerners’ increased interest in Latvia most likely is the result of the Latvian vote in favor of joining the European Union,” the office said in a press release, “which opens the state to broader and quicker economic development opportunities, and makes its economy more stable and predictable.”

In the first six months of this year, a total of 86 people repatriated to Latvia, 44 (52 percent) of whom were from Western nations. Of those, 11 were from the United States and 10 from Germany. A total of 14 returned from Russia.

In the first half of 2003, when a total of 125 people repatriated, Westerners represented 35 percent. In the second half of 2003, Westerns were 44 percent of repatriants, the citizenship and migration office announced.

A repatriant is defined under Latvian law as a person who is a Latvian citizen, or one of whose parents or grandparents is an ethnic Latvian or Liv, and who voluntarily returns to permanently live in Latvia.

The Latvian government offers financial assistance to repatriants. During the first half of this year, 80 repatriants received a total of LVL 24,272 in aid, about 80 percent of which went to travel expenses.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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