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Further, the Baltic states have been less than successful in managing integration and social cohesion issues. The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) has continuously noted the anti-immigrant sentiment that exists in all three Baltic countries. For example, International House Estonia is a one-stop agency that helps newcomers settle, while the Career Hunt initiative provides an all-expense paid trip to Estonia for IT specialists looking to move to the country. The targeted approach to immigration, coupled with the fact that in the past decade Estonia has rebranded itself as the global leader in digitalization—spearheading concepts such as e-Residency, E-Estonia, and digital identification cards (government initiatives to simplify citizen and resident access to the Estonian government’s online services, thus allowing entrepreneurs to invest in and manage digital businesses from anywhere in the world)—has garnered results. Despite this relatively small number, the issue of refugees has been deeply unpopular in the Baltics, contributing to the governments’ sluggish response in meeting quotas and hesitation to pledge to take in more refugees.
As of January 1, 2019, Latvia became one of a handful of countries to implement a separate diaspora law to foster engagement from a wide net of diaspora members: even those individuals who feel some affinity to Latvia while not necessarily tracing their lineage back to the country are considered part of the diaspora.
In the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—high emigration rates and shrinking, aging populations are leading to an impending demographic crisis.
The region is one of the most rapidly depopulating in the world, and according to United Nations estimates, by 2050 Latvia’s population could shrink by 22 percent, while those in Lithuania and Estonia could decline by 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
However, Estonia is also cautious in its efforts to bring back highly skilled individuals: Bringing Talent Home, a 2010-12 return migration initiative, failed to reach its goals, and was instead perceived as highly offensive by members of the diaspora who did not meet the program’s requirements.
Instead, the Estonian government has partnered with several nongovernmental initiatives to attract talented foreign workers and encourage their settlement.