The Latvian Institute organised a roundtable discussion today for editors and columnists to talk about the #IWantYouBack social movement, thus initiating many discussions about the strategy, goals and next steps to be taken. Institute director Aiva Rozenberga was joined by two young professionals who recently returned to Latvia from abroad, Liene Pērkone and Ņikita Kazakevičs, in the discussion with representatives from Latvian Public Radio, Latvian Public Television, Latvian Independent Television, the BNS news agency, the national newspapers Latvijas Avīze, Diena and Dienas Bizness, and the regional newspaper Bauskas Dzīve.
Kazakevičs said that the main reason why young people return to Latvia does not always have to do with financial motivations, but instead with values and opportunities. The problem is not the salary, but instead the attitudes that employers take toward young professionals and the ability to listen to suggestions. Pērkone chimed in that in comparison to London or Paris, in Rīga she feels that there is a “ceiling” for professional development that is impossible to break through. The young professionals also said that they were encouraged to return to Latvia because of the quality of life, nature, clean environment and potential for start-ups.
Editors and columnists expressed various views about the social movement and made several valuable suggestions as to how to move forward with the initiative. Participants spoke about the need for Latvians to accept new ideas and be more open to everything that is new. That would ease the return process for many people. The need for a debate about how to define Latvian identity so as to avoid ethnic divisions was also discussed. The media representatives called for specific and practical tools that would ease relocation to Latvia. They also said that various groups of emigrants should be addressed with different messages.
Rozenberga told the media representatives about progress that has been made and feedback that has been received so far. She said that there have been criticisms, positive responses, condemnations, and feedback that is full of gratitude. “The goal of the movement is to send an emotional message to people who have left Latvia and those who live here, asking them to get engaged to jointly decide on what kind of country Latvia should be in future,” said Rozenberga.
The next steps for the social movement involve the establishment of partnerships with local municipalities and NGOs in Latvia that can help to strengthen bonds between people in Latvia and people abroad, also making the necessary changes to the quality of services in Latvia.
The slogan #IWantYouBack does not mean that anyone expects people to return to Latvia immediately. Instead we are encouraging people to maintain closer links to Latvia and consider a return home when they are ready to do so. The initiative encourages people to think not only about those who have left, but also those who have stayed in Latvia, working in various areas so as to improve things that do not work well at this time.
The initiative was launched by the Latvian Institute at the end of July, the goal being to address people who have emigrated from Latvia by sending the emotional message that they are important to us and that Latvian will always be their home. The Latvian Institute believes that the time has come to state clearly that we would like our people to come home whenever they are ready to do so, but also that we would like them to maintain closer bonds with Latvia while they are still abroad.
From the left: Liene Pērkone, Ņikita Kazekevičs and Aiva Rozenberga during the roundtable discussion with Latvian editors and columnists.