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Wednesday 20.09.2017 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra

Lithuanian President kicks off initiative to bring Lithuanian emigrants home

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for BNN

In another attempt to stem high emigration, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė along with Jurgis Didžiulis, a hip Lithuanian singer of Columbian descent, launched a new initiative, «Choose Lithuania», aiming to slow down exodus.

From its launch, the head-of-state will pay special attention to Lithuanians who have come back to Lithuania and are already successfully building their future here as well as to those who live and work abroad, her press office informed.

The president plans to meet with former emigrants, visit their businesses and more –  initiate measures to remove bureaucratic obstacles for them in order to alleviate their integration.

«While on foreign trips and reading letters from our people I observe a trend that more and more fellow Lithuanians return back to their homeland. I am pretty positive that we will reach a time when we see more compatriots coming back than leaving. I am deeply convinced in that, however, we need to help those people (make up their mind),» the president told the journalists at the launch of the initiative.

It is by no means a first initiative of the kind – the others have not produced tangible results, but Grybauskaitė is determined to to turn things around.

«We need to instil (desire) to choose Lithuania and I want to commend those who remain in Lithuania, who live here, who devout their life for Lithuania. However, I also want to praise those who, having left Lithuania, do not forget it, who live (abroad) with Lithuania in their heart and do all they can to make Lithuania more known and who help it,» Grybauskaitė added.

According to her, help in various forms- from providing information to assisting with filling out the paperwork, to finding job and accommodation – is needed for people who return or plan to do so. Along with Government, the Office of President intends to especially increase availability of information that each former emigrant needs to know.

«We are a little nation, there are few of us and every and each of use is extremely important, therefore the decision to choose Lithuania matters a lot – Lithuania is our Motherland and we will never have another one. We all have to emanate the feeling for all, and those who have left, too. We have to make sure they feel that we want them back and that we are waiting for them here,» the president spoke passionately.

She reminisced 20 years of her life that she spent abroad working for diplomatic missions and in the European Union institutions.

«For me, (returning back to Lithuania) it was not a difficult decision. I‘d always known that I‘d left Lithuania temporarily. Lithuania has always been my home and I’ve never sought a new one,» she shared her personal experience.

The head-of-state, however, did not condemn those decamping and provided a glimpse in the reasons behind the departures.

«There are many different objective reasons for that, including the standard of living, as well as the factor of social atmosphere – it has become kind of «fashionable» to leave. Indeed, one can make a free choice, but those who decide to emigrate, let do so with Lithuania in their heart. Let they never forget that, after a while in a foreign country, there comes an understanding that nowhere can it be better than in Lithuania,» Grybauskaitė underscored.

Meanwhile, Jurgis Didžiulis, the leader of the legendary band InCulto, said lack of unity is Lithuania‘s biggest problem nowadays and asserted that the main thing in attracting émigrés back is ensuring that they get the message that they are welcome back and are loved wherever they are.

«Because of the lack of unity, we tend to view ourselves as local Lithuanians and those abroad are seen by many as sort of foreigners who lost their Lithuanian identity. We have to understand that there can be Lithuanians of Colombian descent, like myself, or Lithuanians of Russian or Jewish origin and so on. We have to understand that all of them are equal – only then the Lithuanians can feel that they are not forgotten. Only then they can be braver in taking the decisions,»  Didžiulis accentuated.

Paulius Vertelka, who spent 10 years in the US, Chicago, suggested that there are many inspirational success stories for those who consider coming back.

«I see Lithuania as a country of my dreams, a country where I can fulfil them. There are quite a few instances when people return from emigration and successfully go after their dreams here. All is possible here. Many people just need to make the stride, snatch their chance and pursue it until the efforts turn into success,» said Vertelka, who graduated from a university in Chicago, but returned later to Lithuania and now heads an IT company, «Infobalt» .

The president’s plan also envisions setting up communities of former émigrés in local municipalities and even foresees creating a virtual community of Lithuanians. Grybauskaitė’s team also want to enhance activities of the newly established migration infocentre «Renkuosi Lietuvą»(«I choose Lithuania») which, now, employs only three people.

Emigration is seen as one of Lithuania’s biggest problems. Some 31,731 people reported their departure from Lithuania to the authorities in the first half of this year, up from 21,248 who did so a year earlier. Reportedly, 14,000 Lithuanians came back last year, but the numbers of those who left in 2016 stands at 51,000, a 14,5 per cent increase from the previous year.

The official rate of immigration increased to 11,962 people in the six months of 2017, from 9,037 a year earlier.

Lithuania is believed to have lost almost a quarter of its population since it regained independence in 1990, including more than 50,000 people last year.

Approached by BNN, Aistė Ptakauskė, a lecturer at Vilnius University Business School, and Alvydas Ziabkus, a journalist of daily Lietuvos Rytas, opined what makes Lithuanians to leave and what prevents those in emigration from coming back.

«As a specialist of cultural communications, I want to refer to global culture toughness index, which reflects very well the reasons. First, there comes the standard of living, which is followed by the safety of individual in a certain cultural environment. The index even also considers social psychological climate of each country, even concrete climatic conditions. The evaluation of Lithuania in each of the category is not high, to put it mildly. Many Lithuanians are not just feeling safely in Lithuania,» Ptakauskė summed up.

For Ziabkus, high emigration is inevitable due to free borders and vast opportunities behind the border.

«Jokingly I say that, to curb emigration, we need to prohibit our youth from entering foreign colleges and universities. Only a very insignificant part of young Lithuanians with foreign degrees come back to Lithuania,» Ziabkus said.

His own daughter is about to complete studies at a university in the Netherlands, and the father does not advise her to return to Lithuania.

«I understand that we have to be patriotically inclined, but even the biggest patriots of Lithuania cannot evade the harsh reality: very high prices, the mismatch between the wages and the affordability of goods. I went to visit my daughter a couple of times and noticed that the food prices in Holland are on par to ours, or even less often, although the average wage in Lithuania is nearly five times smaller. This says it all,» Ziabkus told BNN.

Recently, the journalist’s daughter received a reminder from Dutch authorities to pay mandatory social insurance tax within three months.

«I was kind of surprised of the given term. In Lithuania, I am sure, the term would be way shorter and our authorities would sanction immediately if a person failed to do it in time,» Ziabkus said. «Unfortunately, there is much bureaucracy in Lithuania and little tolerance.»

According to Vilmorus, a market research and polling company, in 2015, nearly every second Lithuanian emigrant was interested in a comeback to Lithuania, 77 per cent of respondent pointed out that they still keep in touch with their family and relative in Lithuania and an impressive 89 per cent said that retaining Lithuanian identity and all what supports it does matter.

However, alarmingly, another poll, by Spinter tyrimai, has shown that only a mere 7 per cent of former emigrants believe that they have gotten appropriate attention after making the trip back to Lithuania.

Leave a reply

  1. Armis666 says:

    So we going back to Litas? Since food price is better in US.

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  2. Leonard Sadauskas says:

    Love of country and emotions aside, Lithuania must find a way of attracting the successful emigrees to return. Otherwise it is an endless cycle.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Eliminate SODRA says:

    To create an environment for people to stay it is imperative that the social system rewards people that work in Lithuania. Currently 41% of an individuals salary goes to pay social security (SODRA) to the people that have already retired. This means that those who have left can return when they are 66 years old and receive same benefits as those that have worked here their whole life.

    This MUST be stopped as their is no incentive to work in Lithuania!!

    The system should be such that this money goes to retirement funds of those that work instead. For pensioners of today, EU funding must be obtained to bridge the gap into the new system.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. john says:

    make the Lith salaries of the level in Ausria and the expats will start streaming back without a nudge

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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