Little Cesis tackles big emigration problem

Latvia's battle with economic migration is well known – according to some estimates around one in ten of the population has left in search of work since European Union accession in 2004 – and while state-level efforts to attract emigrants home have yet to garner real results, the town of Cesis in the centre of the country is taking matters into its own hands.

July 21-27 has been designated 'Pasaules cēsnieku nedēļa' or 'World week of people from Cesis'. While that may sound like an inflated title for a town of only around 15,000 inhabitants, the aim is genuine, with the week incorporating a conference on migration issues and various networking, sports and social events to make citizens of Cesis, their friends, relatives and those they come into contact with feel like they have a lasting relationship with the town, mayor Jānis Rozenbergs told Latvian Radio.

Representatives of the re-emigration initiative have already visited expat communities in the UK to establish links and “break the ice,” Rozenbergs said, with a similar trip to Ireland being planned for the fall.

“Several thousand people have emigrated but we don't want to feel that we have lost them forever. By maintaining regular contact with them we are increasing the chances that they will return,” Rozenbergs said, adding that initial feedback suggested helping expats with the bureaucracy surrounding a return home might increase the chances of it happening.

An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on migration in the Baltic states published in December 2013 warned that Latvian emigrants were both increasingly well educated (around 24% have university diplomas) and increasingly unlikely to return home in the short-to-medium term with only 23% expecting to do so within five years.

"Latvian emigrants are decreasingly tied to their country of origin and increasingly tied to their country of destination," the OECD warned. 

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