Lithuanian parties have set an enormous and, many insist, hardly feasible task: get the dispersed expats coming back and furthermore: get the nation procreating so that the number of Lithuanians hit a cushy 3.5 million by 2025.
With the census putting Lithuanian citizens now below the mark of three millions, the endeavour seems so of touch with the harsh reality for many – the child birth rate is hovering just over 1 new-born for each family now and emigration, though slower lately, still is tangible by the most families.
Ambitious demographic goals
By the national parliamentary party accord the leaders of the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party, Labour Party and Justice and Order Party vow to decrease emigration from 18 to 9 percent until 2020 and draw up a long-term national program aiming to offset the emigration, re-emigration and migrations flows. And moreover: if the policies along with the others, yet to be put together, demographic measures pan out, the parties resolve to get the number of the Lithuanian population back to 3.5 million. That is how many Lithuanians is thought to have lived in the country right after the restoration of Independence 25 years ago.
The afore-mentioned agreement has been inked not only by the leaders of larger parliamentary parties, but also by the heads of smaller ones, too. These included the Electoral Action of Poles, Lithuania’s Peasants and Green Union and Lithuanian Green Party.
A huge social issue
Meanwhile, the chairman of the opposition Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) and his counterpart of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement (LLM) have thumbed down the consent, both affirming it is rather declarative and populists-oriented, lacking any detailed measures that could bring to the target. So far neither Gabrielius Landsbergis, of HU-LCD, nor Eligijus Masiulis, of the LLM, hinted they would sign the agreement.
The document points out that emigration is the «national problem» of the nation, which stipulates the necessity to create conditions that would encourage the emigrants come back, work and live their own country.
«Migration is a social problem of colossal-size globalization, which tackling requires a consistent and far-sighted policy of international cooperation…The current emigration scale may cause irreversible and pernicious aftermaths for the nation, with Lithuanians, because of the emigration, losing their identity and the relation between the expats and Motherland languishing,» says the agreement.
By having pledged to collaborate on the issue on the parliamentary level, the parties commit to consider migration politics of the state’s priorities from now on.
«I am choosing Lithuania»
After the solemn ceremony of the signing on June 30 Algirdas Butkevičius, the incumbent country’s prime minister and the leader of Lithuania’s Social Democrats, pointed out that the next step in the direction will be working out a plan of measures, which will set out in detail what measures are required to meet the target as the implementation is slated for the next- note, the parliamentary election- year.
«As I call it already, the programme «I am choosing Lithuania», which implementation has already been started by the Government, will need support and dissemination not only from the members of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament), the Government, which is being already done, but the agitation will be required from anyone to have our fellow citizens coming back home, work and live here. I believe that the foreseen measures for the people, who are young and perhaps are set to leave (for abroad), will allow them better make their mind in favour of Lithuania, i.e. they have to stay and work here,» Butkevičius was quoted as saying by Lithuanian media.
Twenty five years of talking
Rolandas Paksas, a MEP and chairman of Order and Justice Party, maintains that Lithuania needs to remove all the roadblocks that prevent from pursuing the goal (have Lithuanians mulling emigration stay in the country).
«It has been enough said (about the subject) over the last 25 years, it is enough to keep addressing the expats all over the world during various state holidays and ask them to come back, help (Lithuania) and invest here while we do not move a finger ( in meeting them). There is an institution about to appear that will start managing the processes. I believe there will be programmes, time schedules, other institutions, which will be responsible (in pursuing the objectives) and that there will be money. The goal of 3.5 million is big, but I think that we can handle it, just because we have had the number (of Lithuanians) in the past, so I really want to congratulate one with the start of the works,» Paksas told.
Floating stream-ward is catastrophic
Meanwhile, Valdemaras Tomaševskis, the leader of the Electoral Action of Lithuanian Poles, emphasized the importance of unanimity in the striving on an issue like emigration.
«I’d like to brag that least emigration is in the Vilnius region,» he noted.
Loreta Graužinienė, the former chairwoman of Labour Party and the Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, said she hopes that the bulk of the programmes will be aiming at young families, specifically establishing favorable parenting conditions for them.
«As several ministries are tasked with working out a single programme on stopping emigration as well as betterment of the demographical situation- the work for which resources will be earmarked- I remain optimistic that the situation will be improving gradually. We just cannot allow ourselves do nothing and float with the flow, especially that scientists assert that the demographic pit is nearing,» she said before adding, «We are late (in some sense) in that regard, and this is not subject to correction already, but we do have to think about the prospect. We have to look 20-30 years ahead (when it comes to the issue of emigration).
Lithuania got own bonuses
Though the speaker believes «every expat» cannot be convinced to make the comeback, she still insists what matters now most for the most expats is that the policies by the Government do spur further emigration.
«Lithuania cannot today afford paying the salaries that Norway can (afford), but Lithuanian has got some other advantages. If majority of the emigrants worked so hard and so much in Lithuania as elsewhere, I believe they would earn quite a lot more. But, for some reason, many do not want to work so hard on Lithuania. We tend to see only the salary. But where are the other things? For some reason, (many of the emigrants) come back to Lithuania to have health treatments. If they had to pay from their salaries for the full medical aids there, I think they would be able to save a whole lot less,» the speaker reasoned.
She insists that the indirect parenting encouragement conditions that the Government is to roll out yet this year will spur young families out there to bear and raise 2-3 children.
According to Lithuanian Statistics, there were 2,904 391 inhabitants in Lithuania this past June.
«Extremely slim chance of success»
Linas Balsys, the chairman of Lithuania’s Green Party told BNN that the emigration-down-from-18-to-9-percent-until-2020 and 3,5 million-people-by-2025 target, though seemingly enormous, can be met with the proper state mechanism rolled out.
«First, we need to embrace all our expatriates out there and entitle them with dual citizenship. I want to see it being enacted not through a referendum held together with the parliamentary election next year, but through the parliamentary legislation,» Balsys told.
When it comes to business, the comebackers would be provided business incentives, in terms of taxation and start-up company establishment.
«I disagree that women do not want to bear and raise children as they are more focused on their career first. It’s appalling to see all the inconsistencies when it comes to the state’s support for children. Foster families get around 150 euro monthly allowance for a child taken in their care, while the family receives around 15 euro for their own child,» the MP noticed. «There are good examples in Europe, like that in France, where women successfully match family and career.»
However, Donatas Burneika, professor and head of the Lithuanian Institute of Societal Geography and Demography, chuckled upon hearing the question on the feasibility of the accord.
«Frankly, the likelihood to see the targets achieved is extremely slim. Look, over the last 10 years around 600,000 people have decamped and now, all of a sudden, the politicians started believing the army will be gushing back to the homeland? I just don’t see it happening, but the intention is certainly praiseworthy,» Burneika told BNN.