On 24 August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a meeting of the Diaspora Working Group, at which an informational report on the activities of the Foreign Ministry in the diaspora sector from 2013 to 2015 was presented to the diaspora organisations and cooperation partners.
Pēteris Kārlis Elferts, Ambassador-at-Large for the Diaspora, when speaking about the work accomplished and the pending matters, emphasised that cooperation with the diaspora is a priority for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new Ambassador for the Diaspora, Atis Sjanīts, who is to assume office on 26 August, was also taking part in the meeting.
Pēteris Kārlis Elferts informed the audience about the involvement of the Foreign Ministry in the implementation of the diaspora policy and interinstitutional cooperation in the past years. The Ambassador noted the work of the Foreign Service in the strengthening of links between the diaspora and Latvia and called on the Ministry of Economy to continue its activities in the field of return migration.
The report on the activities in the diaspora sector carried out by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, diplomatic missions and consular posts contains information on the projects implemented and the vast consular support provided to the diaspora. This includes 23 missions by mobile passport workstations to 33 cities in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States of America, Canada, Germany, and Spain in 2015. For the first time, missions were also deployed in the United Arab Emirates and the South American countries – Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil.
Besides, in 2015, Latvian consular officials ensured the protection of the rights and interests of minors abroad on 191 occasions, especially in the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Norway.
Support has been provided for 90 projects and activities in culture, education, research, business, and sports in Latvia and abroad. In 2013-2015, the Foreign Ministry allocated the funding of EUR 341,711 for the implementation of diaspora projects. The most noteworthy among those are the World Latvian Economic and Innovations Forum, youth activities in Latvia, Ireland, the UK, and Belgium, the Centre for Diaspora and Migration Research at the University of Latvia, and a competition of diaspora-related news items and programmes in cooperation with the National Council for Electronic Mass Media.
The report also reflects data concerning Latvian citizenship and double citizenship among the diaspora, research into the migration processes, the strengthening of the communications platform and support for the diaspora media. The informational report (in Latvian) is accessible on the website of the Foreign Ministry at http://www.mfa.gov.lv/arpolitika/diasporas-politika/dokumenti.
The event also highlighted the ongoing activities and future plans for engaging in cooperation with the diaspora, including the first regional session outside Latvia of the World Latvian Economic and Innovations Forum organised by the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) in association with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the activities of the Centre for the Diaspora and Migration Studies at the University of Latvia, a competition in support of the diaspora media, events for young people, new forms of cooperation and broader support for the diaspora activities.
Further activities also include the involvement of the diaspora in preparations for the centenary of Latvia’s statehood, the “Latvian Footprints in the World” inititive, the return policy, and the promotion of civic participation.
At the meeting, Ambassador Pēteris Elferts handed over his office duties to the incoming Ambassador-at-Large for the Diaspora, Atis Sjanīts, who until now has been the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia to Turkey.
Taking part in the working group meeting were Jānis Andersons, Head of the Representation in Riga of the World Federation of Free Latvians, Kristaps Grasis, Chair of the European Latvian Association, and representatives from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, the Latvian Language Agency, the Riga City Council, the Society Integration Fund, the Centre for the Diaspora and Migration Studies at the University of Latvia, the WFFL, the European Latvian Association, the Latvian Association of Sweden, and www.latviesi.com portal.
The meeting also reviewed the resolutions adopted at the Diaspora Conference organised by the Ministry of Culture focusing on the call for establishing a non-governmental organisation of socially active return migrants to support return migration.