Talking about Diaspora at First National Conference of EMN National Contact Point of Croatia

Date Publish: 
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dubrovnik, Croatia - 30.10. 2018. How diasporas can engage in the development of the country of origin – this was the question discussed on the 22nd of October in Dubrovnik, at the first annual EMN NCP conference in Croatia.

The working part was divided into three sessions, throughout which various speakers provided their findings and shared their approaches to attracting and cooperating with diasporas, especially tackling approaches to diasporas from Third countries. The Conference was attended by more than 40 participants from 12 countries plus Croatia.

Welcome speeches were held by the Croatian EMN National Coordinator Nikolina Patalen, the State Secretary from the Ministry of the Interior Žarko Katić and the Deputy State Secretary from the Central State Office for Croats Abroad Ivana Perkušić.

First session following the opening was devoted to approaches related to understanding the concept of diaspora and introducing the Croatian context.

The first lecture was given by Deepali Fernandes, Senior Migration and Economic Development Specialist from the IOM Headquarters, who emphasized the economic, social and cultural capital brought by diaspora members, typically very loyal investors. She also focused on brain drain, a problem occurring in many countries, pointing out that it needs to be turned into brain circulation, as noticed in the countries of the Pacific, Caribbean and Africa.

The second speaker was Karolina Novinšćak Kölker, a researcher from the Department for the History of Southeast and Eastern Europe, University of Regensburg, Germany. Her presentation focused on migration from Croatia to Bavaria and on the change in the discourse and the general approach to this group from ‘workers temporarily working abroad’ to ‘labour migrants’ in the later stage of the migration process.

Then, Rebeka Mesarić Žabčić, a researcher from the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, talked about perceptions and recommendations of Croatian diaspora members from Australia and USA. She conducted a research on the probability of the return of Croatian emigrants considering the high standards of living in the USA and Australia, and presented the results which included both strong emotional reasons for returning to Croatia on one hand and reasonable factors for staying abroad (higher salaries, better education system etc.) on the other.

Following that, Ivana Lučev, Head of the Service for Migrations from the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, presented the results of their research on reasons for leaving and returning to Croatia with similar conclusions. These results showed that in the last seven years a significant number of high-skilled workers emigrated from Croatia and that the majority expect significant changes in Croatia in order to for them to return.

The last presentation during the first session was held by Marija Matek, head of the Welcome Office at the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad. She pointed out that the constitutional obligation of the Republic of Croatia is to protect, care and cherish the connection with the Croats living abroad. One of the tools for achieving this purpose is the establishment of the Welcome Office and production of materials for diaspora members (such as “Guide for Returnees”) as well as implementation of various projects (eg. “Roots”).

The second and third sessions were dedicated to examples of good practices in engaging with diaspora members. Lukas Savickas, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Economic and Strategic Change Management from Lithuania, gave an example describing the project “Create Lithuania” which persuaded many Lithuanians to return to the homeland. The Lithuanian government’s key challenge was attracting the talent, bearing in mind the need for more talent in most sectors of the economy.

The following two speakers were from two countries traditionally known for having large diasporas around the world – Ireland and Israel. Geoffrey Keating, the Head of the Irish Abroad Unit described the Irish diaspora policy which operates under five pillars: support – connect – facilitate – recognize – evolve. The focus is on adapting the policy according to recent changes in Irish migration trends (meaning more people returning to Ireland), and thus creating the programmes which are supporting these trends.

Arnon Mantver, Founder and Volunteer Chairman of the Center for International Migration and Integration from Israel, continued the session describing the role of Israeli diaspora in the times of change for the country of Israel. Mr. Mantver also gave his recommendations for building strong relationship with diaspora: encouraging establishment of diaspora’s organizations and institutions, long term programmes for diaspora, networking, fundraising etc. He also mentioned a few key areas to work on in the Croatian case: creating strong and sustainable communities and organizations abroad and developing the home country through partnerships with diaspora.

At the end of the session, some of the topics that were discussed were: the influence of mobility on the work of institutions of the home country, specific government programs for people who do not have contact with their home country, how to stop emigration in practice etc.

In the last session, Deepali Fernandes explained the results of IOM’s “mapping surveys”, through which IOM obtained numerous information related to diaspora's location, status of education, attitudes, professional interests etc. These data are of great importance for governments who wish to strengthen the relationship with their diaspora and to design strategies and programs that would assist them in skill transfer.

Finally, Audra Sipavičienė, Head of the IOM Office in Vilnius, talked about Lithuanian experience with massive emigration. Lithuanian government established the Migration Information Center for Returning Migrants called „I Choose Lithuania“, implemented by IOM, through which returnees can get help by receiving all the information they need. The government is trying to reduce emigration and encourage return migration through three components: emigration prevention, promotion of return and establishing diaspora contact.

The Conference ended with a discussion on various issues, with the main focus on mapping of diasporas, research and data analysis. Overall, this Conference provided a broader view of the Croatian diaspora, as well as of the potential which diasporas have in strenghtening and in development of their countries of origin.