The Latvian government should develop a plan to improve and finance relations with the diaspora, a Saeima committee will tell Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.
The parliament’s Citizenship Law Implementation Committee, chaired by Ilmars Latkovskis of the National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”), declared Nov. 9 that it also is important to encourage the diaspora’s return to the homeland once economic conditions improve, as well as to foster diaspora’s involvement in solving current issues in Latvia.
“The rapid emigration of Latvia’s residents and the catastrophically low birth rate is a serious problem that will fundamentally affect our country’s future,” Latkovskis said in a statement from the Saeima press office.
Latvia’s population at the start of October stood at 2.209 million, according to the Central Statistical Office in Rīga. That’s a loss of 43,500 people from the same period two years ago, or a decrease of almost 2 percent.
Since Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, tens of thousands of residents have left for other countries in search of work, especially to Ireland and the United Kingdom. In the first nine months of this year, according to the statistical office, a total 15,892 people emigrated from Latvia.
The fertility rate, meanwhile, continues to run low. According the Central Statistical Office, the fertility rate in Latvia during the past 10 years edged up from 1.207 births per woman in 2001 to 1.453 births in 2008. However, the rate dropped to 1.319 births in 2009 and then to 1.177 in 2010. One general benchmark is that a country needs a fertility rate of at least 2.1 births per woman in order to replace its existing population. The last time Latvia recorded fertility rates of about 2.1 was in the mid- to late-1980s.
The Citizenship Law Implementation Committee recently met with Rolands Lappuķe, the new special assignments ambassador for relations with the diaspora. The committee supports the ambassador’s view that the diaspora offers meaningful potential for Latvia’s economic growth and development, according to the statement from the press office.
Among basic tools for maintaining ties to the homeland would be allowing dual citizenship for certain groups, according to the committee. The Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee recently reintroduced a bill to amend Latvian law to allow dual citizenship in certain cases.
In 2004, the Latvian government approved a five-year plan of cooperation with the diaspora that included LVL 300,000 in annual funding through the Secretariat of the Minister for Special Assignments for Social Integration Affairs (Īpašu uzdevuma ministra sabiedrības integrācijas lietās sekretariāts, or ĪUMSILS). However, ĪUMSILS was eliminated at the end of 2008 as the government slashed the state budget. The secretariat’s responsibilities were distributed to several other ministries.
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