Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas replied to the interpellation concerning the assisting of compatriots returning from abroad (No. 193), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Mart Helme, Martin Helme, Jaak Madison, Raivo Põldaru and Arno Sild on 23 March 2016.
The interpellators referred to the fact that a large number of people have left Estonia over the last decade. Actually this is not a one-way movement, i.e. people only leaving, but a two-way movement, meaning that some people return. The interpellators enquired what the Government’s policy was with regard to the assisting of compatriots returning from abroad. The interpellators wished to know what the state had done to significantly increase the number of people who would return to their homeland Estonia, and what assistance the state provided to them.
Rõivas said that, according to a notice forwarded by Statistics Estonia last week, the number of people who had settled in Estonia in 2015 had exceeded the number of people who had left Estonia. “If, according to the specified methodology of Statistics Estonia, more than 15 000 people settled in Estonia and 13 000 people left last year, then net migration is 2410 people, in the estimation of Statistics Estonia,” Rõivas said. He referred to the data of Statistics Estonia, according to which about two-thirds of the people who come to Estonia are citizens of Estonia. Statistics Estonia has promised to give exact data at the end of this month.
Rõivas noted that if Estonian citizens decide to go abroad, for example to study, to work, or to expand their horizon as young people, or why not also in advanced age, then this need not always be negative at all. “A number of people who have gone to study or look for career opportunities abroad have reached the absolute top of the world, doing things that would never be possible when living in only one country,” Rõivas explained. Returning to Estonia is certainly a personal decision of every person, and the suitable environment for bringing up children will prove decisive for many – that every child has a place in kindergarten, and that young people have the possibility to participate in sports and hobby activities.
He stressed that, certainly, it is economic growth that ensures a continuous increase in welfare and incomes. The state must create a supporting environment for that, be it by lowering labour taxes, reducing bureaucracy, or contributing to the increase of productivity, export and investments.
“Certainly, when living in another country, it is especially important to preserve native language skill and the connection with Estonia. A large part of this work is done through the compatriots programme. Within that framework, counsellings of the returning people are organised before and after the return, adaptation trainings are organised, cultural activities of the Estonians living abroad are supported, and return supports are also paid,” Rõivas explained. He said that an average support had been EUR 649 per person last year. In addition, there are regular trainings for people working abroad and for teachers of Estonian language and culture, and language and culture camps are held every summer. Study places abroad offering Estonian language instruction are also supported.
The Prime Minister noted that, for those who return to their home country, it is paramount that they have a job and housing here, and that their children can attend kindergarten and school. Through the compatriots programme, the returning people can use return support and counselling services. Also, social benefit is paid to an Estonian citizen of old-age pension age who has settled in Estonia from a foreign state, or to a person of Estonian origin and to his or her spouse, children and parents, if their income remains below the national pension rate. “People who have returned are entitled to social benefits, for example family benefits, subsistence benefit and national pension, under the same conditions as permanent residents,” Rõivas underlined. He added that if a person who has worked in the European Union, or in Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, returns to Estonia, the period of working in the foreign state will also be taken into account, i.e., the insurance periods will be summed, when granting a pension in Estonia. Estonia has such bilateral social security agreements also with Australia, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine and Canada.
Rõivas also replied to the interpellation concerning the conformity of e-elections with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia (No. 197) and the interpellation concerning the implementation of the Ida-Virumaa Action Plan for 2015–2020 (No. 198).
The Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir replied to the interpellation concerning state rental apartments (No. 200).
The Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur replied to the interpellation concerning the termination of the activities of the Police and Border Guard College in Muraste, and the transfer of the activities to Paikuse (No. 189) and the interpellation concerning the cases of death and missing persons (No. 211).
The Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse replied to the interpellation concerning supports granted by the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board (No. 204) and the interpellation concerning joint activity in Estonian agriculture (No. 209).
The interpellators withdrew from the proceedings the interpellation concerning the closing down of Rakvere Veterinary and Food Laboratory (No. 201), submitted to the Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse. Therefore this issue was not discussed at today’s sitting.
The sitting ended at 9.09 p.m.
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