RIGA - The large-scale migration of Latvians to Ireland has been a success story that must be used by both Ireland and Latvia, the Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne told LETA in an interview.
"Latvians are doing well in Ireland," he said. "You know, we even teach Latvian as an optional language in schools with our final exams."
Asked if he would like to help Irish Latvians return home to Latvia, or rather keep them in Ireland, Byrne said with a smile that he would rather keep them in Ireland.
The Irish Minister pointed out that the Irish constantly work together with their diaspora around the world and this is very valuable, therefore Latvia should do the same. The network of Irish embassies is also designed to serve the interests of the diaspora.
"We also have programs to bring people home, but in reality we live in a global world, and people will move a lot more for work than we are used to. And that means they will leave for a limited time and come back with important skills. I understand that Latvia is probably at a different stage in this process, I think you will realize that there will be very valuable results if you keep in touch with the diaspora and invite the most successful of them to events, so that they can share in their experience," said Byrne.
The Irish minister also foresaw the negative effects of Brexit on Great Britain, which are already being felt. "In the past, there was a lot of talk in Great Britain about Latvian electricians and Polish plumbers, presenting this in a negative light. But we are already seeing a shortage of skilled labor in Great Britain, even a shortage of food in supermarkets. And part of the reason is Brexit. In Ireland, meanwhile, migration from the east has been very successful," he said.
"The idea of a European is something that we must not treat lightly. The British gave up this right, but I do not think it was thoughtful. Our strength, our rights, our economic success are much more important on the European table than on our own. Britain will understand this in the coming months and years. If they don't know it yet, they will know for sure quite soon," said Byrne.
Byrne was on a visit to Latvia this week, during which he met with Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and Foreign Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica.