Estonia's Population Minister Riina Solman told Estonians living in Finland that Estonia will welcome everyone of them back to their homeland on Saturday during a visit to Helsinki.
At the "Martin markkinat" culture festival, the minister introduced to members of the Estonian community of Finland the services available to repatriates in Estonia and hear the proposals of Estonians living and working in Finland concerning potential additional actions and measures to facilitate returning.
A delegation of the Riigikogu study committee to solve the demographic crisis, led by the chairman of the committee Jaak Valge (EKRE), also attended the festival.
"Today's open world, which Estonia is a part of, offers ample opportunities to look for new experiences, better pay and self-fulfillment outside one's native country. It is natural that as a result of its proximity, Finland has emerged as the most popular destination country for Estonian people," Solman (Isamaa) said.
"As a member of the government, I wish to relay the message to our people that the Estonian state is waiting for all of you to come back. Each person is valuable and awaited. As population minister, I will try and do everything for the numbers of those who wish to return to be bigger and returning to be seamless. During the meeting, I expect to hear about ideas and expectations for how the state, municipalities, and also Estonian business operators could better support returning to homeland," the Isamaa minister added.
The chairman of the Riigikogu study committee to solve the demographic crisis, Jaak Valge, described the meeting with Estonians living in Finland as very important.
"Face-to-face meetings with Estonians living and working in Finland offer the most genuine picture of our fellow countrypeople's problems and concerns, which may arise when they wish to return to Estonia," he said.
Approximately 70,000 Estonians are estimated to be living or working in Finland at this point. According to a study published by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and e2 Teadusuuringud at the end of September, Estonians are surprisingly little integrated into Finland's society, with most of them seeing their stay in Finland as temporary and having plans to return to Estonia in the future.
Solman said it is also very important for the communities of Estonians abroad to continue to be strong.
In addition to supporting those who repatriate, it is essential to see to it that the Estonian communities abroad are vibrant and help preserve also those people's contacts with the Estonian language, culture and the country itself who are not planning to return. Estonia is so little and the numbers of Estonians so small that we must stick together, no matter where we live, Solman said.
"Martin markkinat," or "St. Martin's Day Fair," is the biggest Estonian festival in Finland. The festival organized by the Tuglas Society has been growing year after year and is expected to draw an audience of 15,000 this time. The Estonian region featured at this year's festival is Valga County.
Editor: Helen Wright