Latvia's innovative diaspora law ready for decisive vote

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The Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee on October 20 reached agreement on a definition of what constitutes Latvia's "diaspora" to be included in the Diaspora Law. 

The committee unanimously voted for handing the bill over to Saeima for a third and final reading.

The legislation defines diaspora as "citizens of Latvia, Latvians and other persons, as well as their family members, who permanently reside abroad but have a strong social connection to Latvia".

The Diaspora Law is innovative legislation intended to foster remigration as well as support those who live abroad but want to maintain their Latvian identity, said the committee's chairman Ojars Eriks Kalnins (New Unity party). The definition is as broad as possible to encourage as many people as possible to return to Latvia and to support Latvian culture abroad, he added.

During the Foreign Affairs Committee's meeting, MPs Janis Dombrava (National Alliance), Valdis Kalnozols (Greens/Farmers) and Rihards Kols (National Alliance) objected to the definition, saying that non-citizens who have emigrated from Latvia should not be considered members of the Latvian diaspora.

On the other hand, Arvids Ulme (Greens and Farmers Union) told the committee that such persons were no enemies of Latvia, and the Foreign Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica also said that the definition of diaspora had to be broader.

Saeima is to vote on the bill in the final reading on November 1.

The law is divided into four parts. The first part includes general rules, describes the purpose of the law and explains such terms as diaspora, remigration, diaspora policy and diaspora organizations. The goal of the diaspora bill is to build a systemic and systematic framework for implementation of the diaspora policy in order to give Latvian diaspora members the opportunity to maintain links with Latvia, foster preservation of the Latvian language and culture in Latvian communities abroad, and ensure favorable conditions for cooperation and remigration.

Another section of the law deals with the diaspora policy and state and municipal institutions' responsibilities in implementation of the diaspora policy. The third section of the law lays down diaspora support measures, including assistance to diaspora members in such matters as education documents, recognition of qualifications, residence registration, enrolment of children in preschools and schools, minimum income, and others.

The fourth section of the law deals with financing for diaspora support measures.

The task force working on the diaspora law included representatives from Saeima, several ministries, institutions, diaspora organizations and non-governmental organizations.

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