President wants welcome mat for diaspora Latvians

  • 2004-02-12
  • Baltic News Service
RIGA - With the country facing a devastatingly low birth rate, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga stated her belief that that the Baltic state should reach out to the Latvian diaspora abroad that want to return to their homeland. The president stressed that people of Latvian heritage living in Siberia require assistance when settling down in the Baltic nation.

An interview with the Latvian president published in the official state newspaper Latvijas Vestnesis on Feb. 5 revealed that Vike-Freiberga believes that one of the state ministries should be tasked with collecting information about the Latvians abroad and their wishes to return to their homeland.
"We must develop a specific plan here on the ministerial level," said the Latvian president.
"Those who want to return to Latvia should first of all be assisted with covering the travel expenses. Assistance should be offered for buying apartments in Latvia. Of course, local governments claim that everything has been privatized, [that they] have nothing to give these people," Vike-Freiberga said.
"But we need apartments for the poor and for those Latvians who want to return from Siberia. They cannot solve the problem alone, as prices for apartments are rising constantly," she added.
The president said that foreign assistance might also be involved in solving this problem.
"I just spoke to an American congressman in Stockholm. He would be prepared to raise this issue at the U.S. Congress. But we must ourselves come forward with a government initiative," Vike-Freiberga said.
Speaking of Western compatriots, Vike-Freiberga, who has spent most of her life in Canada, explained that she would like to see retirement-aged people return to Latvia.
"I would, of course, like to see the Latvian pensioners in the West to sell their homes, take all their savings and return to Latvia and buy themselves a home here. Of course, there are not millions of such people, but Latvia is a small country and the return of each and every person is important," Vike-Freiberga said.