Romanian authorities have considered, at the eleventh hour, making more consistent overtures toward bringing back home the Romanians who left abroad. The first step has been taken. Unfortunately, instead of being a promising step, one that would allow the glimpsing of the state’s concrete, long-term strategy on bringing back the “grey matter” and the “arms of steel,” it was a limping, timid and restrained one. Last week the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s headquarters hosted a debate – meant to be the first in a series – between authorities and the representatives of Romanian communities abroad. It was the first edition of the “Romanians abroad” series of meetings, dedicated to the “Why I Returned to Romania” theme. It was a limping, timid and restrained step for several reasons, one that does not entail a heartening outlook. The attendance consisted of several journalists, far too few, several embassy representatives, far too few, several representatives of Romanians living abroad, also far too few. There was an atmosphere of general expectation, not at all confident, not at all optimistic. Some of those present revealed the possible reason why so few persons were interested in the Romanian authorities’ plans to bring back home several million Romanians. They had received their invitations with too little advance notice. Maybe far too little to mobilize the forums and websites on which Romanians working abroad write their complaints, ideas and hopes. The guest speakers gave mobilizing speeches. We found out the success stories of four persons who worked or studied abroad – one of them being former minister Bogdan Stanoevici – then purposefully returned back to Romania where they were given “a chance.” How? We were not told exactly. Beautiful, success stories but lacking concreteness for the Romanian workers toiling on other people’s lands. A single concrete aspect: that our brothers abroad should be called “Romanians abroad,” not “Diaspora.”
But one extremely important thing is being forgotten. Millions of Romanians, driven abroad by poverty, by normal dreams that were nevertheless too big for this country, by the desire to live decently and not solely in order to pay bills and taxes, want to return now. Not tomorrow, not a year from now. Not ten years from now. Because nobody stays in another country, working its lands, taking care of its elderly, helping its sick, building its proud buildings out of pleasure or pure passion. Away from families, from the fatherland they undoubtedly love, they are forced to endure the tears of their loved ones, painful separations, distance, loneliness, worries, even fear, in order to make up for the impotence of government officials who cannot do more for them. Who know only how to ask for taxes and to throw monkey wrenches every time they need an official document from Romania, one of their rights, humiliating them with unending queues even when they go out to vote. And in order for them to return now, Romania has to do something palpable.
The Romanians who slave away outside their dear country know very well their success stories. And they do not care whether they are dubbed “the Diaspora” or “Romanians abroad.” They no longer want empty talk, plans, commissions, committees, conferences and promises. They have had enough of these. They want long-term strategies. They want solutions. They want to come home. And the longer this country tarries in offering solutions the more it stands to lose. Because, although Romanians abroad now send approximately EUR 5 bln in remittances, being the most important investor in Romania, on the long term, without a pragmatic approach and a strategy, the country will lose them and will stagnate in the same hopes written down on paper.
A quarter of a century since the 1989 Revolution we have around 3 million Romanians working abroad, who have no reason to return, who gradually take their families there, who draw to them other talented young people, who change their citizenship and end up no longer contributing to the GDP as they do now.
Because in today’s Romania there is no well-drawn plan to bring back and keep here the two elements without which this country will never be a prosperous fatherland: “grey matter” – that of students and researchers who leave their country every year in order to work for the progress of other nations – and “arms of steel” – the workforce that toils hard from dawn to dusk.
Romania is currently a country without long-term outlook, which promises nothing good to a top-grade student, to an Olympiad winner, to a young entrepreneur, to a Medical School, Constructions School or Polytechnics graduate, to an IT worker, and which has only one outlook because of the MPs’ lack of interest: that of becoming a country with an aged population, drained of human resources, which will be no longer able to finance itself.