Egils Levits
Valsts prezidenta Egila Levita uzruna neformālā diskusijā ar vidusskolēniem “ROSINĀTAVA”

Dear friends,

I am happy to have been invited here today and join you for a discussion about an interesting topic of why come back.

This question is relevant in all modern societies. These days, reasons why someone returns to Latvia are linked to why they left Latvia because before coming back you or your parents left Latvia. Nowadays, no one expects people to spend their lifetime living in the same place they were born. In their, for example, village, town or city. Mobility has become a second nature. People move from Valmiera to Riga and from Riga to, for example, Babrene municipality or abroad.

Mobility makes us ask ourselves questions like ‘Where?’ and ‘Why?’. We have these questions because world countries have open borders nowadays. At least some of them. We received visa-free travel across the European Union only 16 years ago. Before that you had to buy a tourist visa to visit a country, but it was a lot more difficult to settle down. You could not just go to France and say, ‘I want to live, study and work here’. While today you can.

Among us we have people who left Latvia and are thinking whether to come back, and there are also people from France, Germany, Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia who live here and are also thinking whether to return or not. Therefore, I think that the term ‘emigration’ that we used in the past no longer fits the modern-day reality. Emigrant was somebody who sold his house, burned all the bridges, boarded a ship, by the way, in the beginning of the 20th century there were liner ships bringing emigrants from Liepāja straight to New York and there were people from across Russia going to Liepāja to get to New York afterwards, and they spent their whole life living abroad. That has changed nowadays. Basically, you can make your mind up on what your life has been like and where you have lived only at the end of your life. Most people, of course, stay in their home country. At the same time, I do not think we should look down upon somebody who has gone abroad for some time because you never know how long you are going to remain there. Even if you go with a clear idea of when you will return, you can never know what will happen, life can throw anything at you.

We must embrace those who decide to come back. That is how modern world works, and this is something that happens not only in Latvia, all European countries are the same in this regard. You can legally choose where you want to live. That is why the question of why come back is so relevant, and it is good that you find it is necessary to talk about it.

Let me now talk about those who are planning or have already returned. Why come back? There are different reasons for that. Those reasons depend on who you are and how you do, and also what is happening in your country, or Europe. It may be memories from childhood and youth about how pleasant life here was. It may also be family – you want to, for example, be closer to your family and friends and that is why you go back. You may also have financial reasons. The first generation of those who settle down somewhere else usually feel as ‘strangers’. It always happens so. There are societies that take to people from other countries faster and societies that need more time to accept foreigners. In your home country where you belong you will always feel at home, one of your own. This sense of belonging is very important for Latvia and all the other countries. In some way it is because of financial differences that have become less significant. For example, you get paid 1.5 times more somewhere else, but you feel like you do not fit in and there is something pulling you back to Latvia. Finances, memories and family are the most common reasons why people return.

As a society and a state, Latvia must accept that some part of our nation will always live outside Latvia. That is normal. I think that in the last 5 years our national policies have strongly integrated this part of our nation, people who live abroad either many years or less. This is an important part of our nation because of the experience that they have acquired abroad, experience that our society and country can benefit from. No matter what job you do, what sector you are in, this experience makes you richer and manifests itself in different ways throughout your life after you have returned.

We can discuss various reasons for returning later, however, one of the most important factors is personal attitude, and this attitude includes sense of belonging. This is Latvia and if I feel I belong here, in Latvia, I am a part of this nation. You can get involved both living here and abroad, take part in, for example, various diaspora activities and societies. That way, although you are living abroad, you continue to be an active citizen of Latvia who makes his contribution.

Thank you once again for having me and letting me discuss with you the topic of why and how best to come back.

05.02.2020. Valsts prezidents Egils Levits piedalās neformālā diskusijā ar vidusskolēniem “ROSINĀTAVA”