President Klaus Iohannis talked on Tuesday, while meeting Diaspora representatives at the Cotroceni Palace, about the future of Romanians working and studying abroad. The Head of State said that the Romanian Diaspora is a veritable asset for the country, adding that he would like Romanians to stop leaving the country because of hardships, leaving just because they choose to do so instead.
“We are often talking about the loss that the Romanians’ departure abroad represents. In a different approach, however, we can also see the opportunity offered by the presence of a strong Diaspora abroad. Well engaged by a careful state, it can become an important asset for the development and modernization of Romania, veritable capital that can be put to good use. The Romanian state has to serve all Romanians alike, from within and without the country,” Iohannis said at a debate organized at the Cotroceni Palace.
He added that a new framework, one in which attention toward the Diaspora would become a national priority, will have to be translated into public policies, programmes and projects.
“Romanians abroad accumulate experience, take hold of expertise, gain habits and build contact networks that they would not have had in the country. This represents precious capital that can be intelligently put to good use. Whether we are talking about specialists worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, about Romanians who excel in their professions and activities, who work earnestly, the Romanians living abroad have something useful to offer to the country. They come with professional, intellectual, financial, social but also “civic” capital, having experienced life in consolidated democracies with efficient public service systems,” the Head of State said.
He emphasised that the number of Romanians who return home will grow proportionally to the extent in which the state’s approach will change in their case.
“The second observation, which I regretfully make, is that far too few Romanians have concrete plans to return to the country. I am convinced their number will grow to the extent in which the state’s approach toward its citizens changes, but their expertise can be put to good use in the service of developing Romania right where they are living now,” Iohannis said.
The Head of State proposed the devising of ways in which Romanian specialists abroad can be put in touch with those left in the country, in order to connect their entrepreneurial or research projects, thus easing access to resources and creating bridges with public institutions.
“We can put to good use Romanian ingenuity and creativeness and we can all benefit from the transfer of ideas and projects in both directions, from abroad toward Romania and vice versa,” he said.
Romania cannot afford wasting her precious human capital”
President Iohannis also pointed out that in order to answer Romanians’ expectations to connect with the country and to offer them friendly access to state services, as many online instruments as possible can be created, ranging from online information available for courses, educational and entrepreneurial programmes to virtual incubators.
“Romania cannot afford to waste her precious human capital that our fellow citizens living abroad represent. They are not only the ambassadors of the Romanian soul and the messengers of our culture and customs, but they have also proved entrepreneurial spirit through the very destiny they chose for themselves. They are sources of projects and investments, of research or artistic and cultural exchanges. In short, they are vectors of development and modernization for the country,” the Head of State added. According to the President, annual remittances make Romanians living abroad “a veritable investor and generate an important share of the economic growth.”
“We have the duty to offer them more, namely concrete opportunities in order to incentivize them to productively use their talent and resources back home,” Iohannis said.
The Head of State pointed out that Romanians living abroad are “important factors of influence in their host countries.”
“Romania’s projection in the world depends to a great extent on the presence, words and actions of each of them. In this way, rather than through any other communication instrument devised by the state, a livelier and more long-lasting impression about Romania is created. Romania’s image in the world does not come solely from the facts on the ground here in the country, but also from how they are translated by each of those who left. In this sense, I want to salute the effort of the businessmen who voluntarily mobilized, travelling throughout the Diaspora, in order to present the opportunities available in Romania,” he stated.
The Head of State announced that the Government will propose a roadmap that would reflect the strategic importance conferred to the Diaspora and noted that “the attention given” to informing the citizens about postal voting.
“I know there are several initiatives being already prepared and, when they coalesce, I will discuss them with their beneficiaries – the Romanians who are today living abroad. Thus, the Consultative Council promised to the Diaspora will take a first step toward fulfilling its mission,” he pointed out.
Iohannis wants the presence of Romanians abroad to be a matter of choice, not of necessity, proposing the striking of a partnership with them in this context.
“I propose Romanians living abroad a partnership based on mutual trust and a common goal: transforming Romania into a prosperous and powerful state,” he added.
Dacian Ciolos: “Members of the Romanian Diaspora send back home EUR 1.5 bln per year; potential for tens of billions”
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos also participated in the meeting with representatives of the Romanian Diaspora. The Romanians from the Diaspora are currently an economic force, said Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, adding that their investment potential is worth tens of billions of Euros.
“The Romanian Diaspora is now an economic force, after the massive emigration, in particular before and after Romania’s integration into the European Union when many Romanian nationals benefitted from this right to free movement of persons and labour. The Romanian Diaspora is a multilevel capital. If we take a look at the economic side, the annual remittances total 1.5 billion Euros, yet the economic, investment potential of the Romanian Diaspora could be figured to tens of billions of Euros,” said Ciolos at the “Romanian Diaspora – Vector of Development” debate at the Cotroceni Palace.
He said it could be considered to encourage those who want to return to Romania, to come back or stimulate the cultural, business and scientific connections for those who prefer to stay where they are.
According to the Prime Minister, the Romanians who left the country hesitate to return due to the salaries’ level and to the quality of certain public services here, given that many of those who have left have already accumulated financial, intellectual, professional capital, enough to help them make it here, in the country.
“They are used to a certain standard that public services have abroad as regards the level of education, healthcare, public administration’s quality and they wish if returned, to invest their capital, including the human, personal one, to be certain they could ensure a decent future for their children,” Dacian Ciolos completed.
The Premier insisted on the fact that Romanians living abroad and those at home are waiting for the reform of the state. He said that he plans to develop professional networks and to encourage the networking approach, namely the development of existing platforms and the setting up of new ones, especially in order to ease the tapping into European grants.
“In what concerns research, we will continue to carry out, in the following years too, programmes that would specifically aim for partnerships between research units in Romania and research units abroad, which would have as a structural vector especially the Romanians working in research abroad, who can significantly ease this re-coupling of Romanian research to international research,” the Premier said.
Likewise, the Government is considering creating an agency for investment and trade promotion within the Economy Ministry, one of its main goals being to stimulate the Romanian Diaspora’s involvement in economic partnerships.
“A specific domain in which I believe Romania would stand to gain a lot by stimulating the return of the Diaspora is the development of the Romanian village, and here I am thinking more about the last ten years of migration of people from rural areas to some EU member states where they worked in agriculture,” Ciolos added.
Executive wants to develop scholarship system
Finally, the Premier announced that the Executive wants to develop the scholarship system, both for Romanian children living abroad who want to study the Romanian language, and for those interested in research.
“At the same time, we are thinking about developing a scholarship programme for members of the Romanian Diaspora. Both educational scholarships – and here I am thinking in particular about those families who already have children born abroad who could come to the country to study in the Romanian language, and in this way to connect to the cultural realities of the families they grew up in – but, similarly, research scholarships in order to stimulate, as I was telling you, the coupling of Romanian research to the results of international research laboratories through the Romanians working there, who, many of them, are able and ready to return to Romania temporarily, for a period of time, for certain research programmes,” Ciolos added.
Likewise, the Prime Minister also tackled the issue of access to vote in the Diaspora, bearing in mind that 2016 is an elections year.
“For Romanians who decide to remain abroad, we are also considering an improvement of consulate services or an improvement of the exercising of citizens’ rights, such as the right to vote, or support in order to benefit from the right to the free movement of labour, I am thinking about the EU here.”
“Getting the Diaspora involved in strengthening relations with the host-states, especially in countries with a sizeable Romanian Diaspora, is also an element we are considering,” Ciolos said, adding that he is considering “getting the Diaspora involved in the reset of social and political values in the country, in chancing mentalities, in overcoming the complexes and in more pro-active engagement in our socio-economic development as a nation.”