Eastern Europe and Bulgaria can Bring their Workers Back and Two Cities Showed How

Opinions | February 12, 2019, Tuesday // 15:30|  views

A small Baltic town can help us understand a lot about the migration of the people of the region after the accession of the states there to the European Union (EU).

The settlement, divided after World War I, has two names today - Valga in Estonia and Valka in Latvia. To date, the population is about 17,500 people. And for many, in recent years, there has been a dilemma on which side the border is better off.

The Estonian portion, where the Latvian population has increased 50% over the last four years, has won the race. The main thing that Valga has compared to to Valka is that in Estonia salaries remain higher, as are social welfare payments.

The latter prove to be an important factor especially for Eastern European countries who want to get back their workers who have gone to work in Western Europe, says Bloomberg.

According to Valka's mayor Vents Krauclis, higher salaries and good medical care have attracted the first wave of Latvians in Estonia, higher social payments have contributed to the next wave of migrants there.

"When Estonia raised maternity pay, people realized that if you had a child, it is better to register with Valga," he said in an interview.

In general, the Baltic state is a good example of migration phenomenon in Eastern Europe. As in the other two Baltic states, the population has fallen seriously after the collapse of the USSR, and later with EU accession.

In recent years, however, the trend has turned and the Estonians have begun to return to their homeland first because of higher social payments, and now because of the lower taxes introduced for low-income people.

"With the increase in social payments in Estonia, many families going abroad have begun to consider moving back," said Tartu University researcher Pila Marie Siam.

An example is the net migration from Finland, which is an attractive destination for Estonians. In 2017, it turned the trend for the first time since 2004, and more people returned from Finland than they went to live there, statistics show.

"Estonia's experience can be useful for countries like Bulgaria, whose migration is at a level that has not been seen since the Second World War." Poland is also moving in this direction and is already offering serious support to the families remaining in their homeland in attempt to attract others, "Bloomberg said.