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    European group calls for EU Commissioner for European expats

    Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

    Europeans Throughout the World has released a set of recommendations aimed at giving recognition and support to European citizens living outside their countries of origin. The recommendations, decided at the group’s 25th anniversary meeting in Stockholm this month (which I attended as an associate member on behalf of Ireland), concern such issues as the recognition of multiple nationalities, consular protection, and the harmonisation of family law.

    Perhaps most significant is the call for a dedicated EU Commissioner for expatriate Europeans and an agency to monitor concerns. This resonates with Ireland’s recent experience in establishing the Irish Abroad Unit, and Ireland could perhaps be an instructive case study in establishing this type of initiative.

    Most of the recommendations would be relatively uncontroversial here: Ireland  takes a particularly open approach to multiple citizenships, for example. But the recommendations call for expatriate citizens to be granted voting rights – a right granted to most European citizens, but not Irish nationals. The organisation notes that the current situation, in which some nations allow their non-EU resident expats to vote for representatives at European level and others do not, leads to inequality among European citizens.

    Europeans Throughout the World is a non-governmental federation of national associations representing Europeans living outside their countries of origin.

    The full text of the recommendations:

    STOCKHOLM RECOMMENDATIONS

    On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their founding, The Europeans throughout the World, the confederation of associations of European expatriates, meeting in Stockholm at the kind invitation of the Federation Swedes Abroad, recalls that citizens of the European Union living in another country than their own throughout the world are estimated to number between 60 and 80 million, thus together forming the equivalent of a large member state, make very substantial contributions to Europe’s presence in the world, and should be considered a great asset for Europe.

    The Europeans throughout the World urges European national governments and the institutions of the European Union, particularly the European Parliament,

    • to give political and practical recognition and support to this large body of citizens, many of whom have a very high degree of international mobility, consistent with and often a consequence of the progress of the EU and their professional and societal role within it;
    • to act upon the following recommendations, which proceed from over fifty-five years of experience of the EU and twenty-five years of action, and which also build upon and extend the Paris Declaration adopted at the Meeting of European Citizens resident outside their country of origin in Paris on 30 September 2008.

    Voting rights – all expatriate European citizens should be given specific national and EU-level representation in order that their voices may be properly heard and their concerns, specific to their condition as expatriates, properly taken into account:

    • All EU citizens should be given the right to vote in their national elections at national and regional level, and practical arrangements made to facilitate the convenience to the citizen, wherever he or she resides in the world, for example through proxy, postal and/or electronic voting mechanisms.
    • All EU citizens should be given the right to choose to vote in European Parliament elections in their country of residence or of one of their EU nationalities, and practical arrangements made to facilitate the convenience to the citizen, wherever he or she resides in the world.

    Multiple nationalities

    • All EU citizens should be given the right to possess and to gain or regain multiple  nationalities to which they may have a claim, given the fundamental nature of nationality to the citizen and his or her means of livelihood.

    Diplomatic and consular protection

    • Full and uniform protection should be ensured to all EU citizens through the network of EU member states’ embassies and consulates throughout the world, irrespective of their nationalities and countries of residence.
    • This should extend especially to prisoners, who are often particularly vulnerable – judicial proceedings in third countries should be closely monitored and full defence of the accused ensured. Wherever possible they should be able to purge their sentence in (one of) their own country(ies).

    Social Security

    • The right of patients to treatment in the country of their choice, regardless of the country(ies) in which they have paid their state and/or private health insurance contributions, should be ensured in practice, in line with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.

    Pensions

    • The acquisition of state and supplementary pensions should be ensured in practice, and their payment ensured from the age of retirement, to all expatriate EU citizens, wherever they reside in the world, and existing EU legislation enforced and extended. Cases of multiple taxation need to be removed. Particular attention should be given to the situation of people who have followed their spouses abroad and may find their rights seriously curtailed.

    Education

    • The possibility of complementary education in one’s mother tongue should be extended to all children of expatriate EU citizens, allowing them to preserve the knowledge of their mother tongue and culture.

    Mutual Recognition of Diplomas and Professional Training

    • There are many diplomas and professional qualifications of EU member states which are not recognised in other EU countries. The ongoing efforts towards mutual recognition should be intensified and extended to further fields.

    Justice

    • Expatriate EU citizens should be guaranteed a legally indisputable choice of competent jurisdictions and simplified access to these.
    • Family law should be harmonised and enforced, particularly in the areas of the consequences of divorce for children.
    • Contradictions and multiple taxation should be removed from the area of succession and inheritance.

    “European Referent? in the national public services

    • A personalised “European Administrative Window? should be created within the national, regional and/or local administrations, fully aware of the legal and administrative aspects at EU level.

    A European Commissioner and an Agency for expatriate Europeans

    • Considering that the above concerns have not been fully addressed, we reiterate our recommendation that a Member of the European Commission should be given specific responsibility for expatriate EU citizens.
    • All European Institutions should set up specific mechanisms to take account of the specific concerns of expatriate EU citizens.
    • An agency should be created to take up these concerns on a permanent basis. It should be charged with monitoring and furthering all the above concerns, and should be given appropriate means to carry out these tasks.

    Related website:

    Europeans Throughout the World

    Former head of Task Force on Emigrants dies

    Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

    Paddy O’Hanlon, who headed the task force on policies regarding emigrants, has died at 65 following a short illness.

    Paddy O’Hanlon became one of the founding members of the SDLP after being elected to Stormont in 1969; he left politics in the 1980s to become a barrister. O’Hanlon was appointed in 2001 to head the emigrant task force by then-MInister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen.

    The task force was highly influential in prompting a new relationship between Ireland and the Irish abroad. Subsequent actions by the government included the establishment of the Irish Abroad Unit and increased spending on emigrant welfare.

    For more information:

    ITLG founder calls for high-level outreach to Irish abroad

    Friday, March 20th, 2009

    A group of high-level Irish representatives should be gathered to reach out to the Irish diaspora to assist in economic development, says an Irish-American founder of the San Francisco-based Irish Technology Leadership Group.

    Tom McEnery, a former mayor of San Jose, is quoted in the Sunday Business Post as saying,

    It is now time to assemble the best and most significant Irish representatives – like President McAleese, key government and Enterprise Ireland people, U2, Seamus Heaney and the Abbey players as well as certain chief executives – to help Ireland in these tough times.

    If these representatves reached out to successful second- and third-generation Irish around the world, then a rich vein of relationships that could achieve real results would be initiated.

    McEnry said that the focus of Irish outreach efforts needs to shift from the traditional centres of Irish-American power:

    Politicians need to make more visits to Silicon Valley, where there are 700,000 technology workers – and less to Washington, New York and Chicago.

    Silicon Valley is successsful because of the Californian government’s investment in universities, the development of a proper transport network via public-private partnerships, and the availability of capital to support enterprise ventures.

    Ireland has good universities, but it hasn’t achieved the others to the extent that is needed, and that is where the focus needs to be now. Ireland has come a long way in the last 20 years, and everything that can be done now to sustain that must be done.

    Related websites:
    Sunday Business Post: Irish diaspora must be tapped for support

    Homecoming Scotland welcomes Scottish diaspora

    Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

    Deomonstrating the increasing efforts of nations to reach out to their global communities, Scotland is welcoming home its diaspora this year with a series of events comprising “Homecoming Scotland”. It’s Scotland’s first-ever “homecoming year”, and organisers are celebrating poet Robbie Burn’s 250th birthday as a focal point. They are also highlighting “some of Scotland’s great contributions to the world: golf, whisky, great minds and innovations and Scotland’s rich culture and heritage.” It’s a dynamic programme: there’s a “Celtic Connections” programme featuring a concert of traditional songs that have crossed the Atlantic with Scottish and Irish emigrants over the last 300 years, as well as a Jamaican carnival celebrating Burns Night. The website also includes information on the contributions of the Ulster Scots around the globe. May will be “Whisky Month”. The world’s biggest clan gathering will take place in July in Edinburgh. There is also a “My Special Place” competition, inviting visitors to photograph their favourite place. The director of the Scottish Centre of Diaspora studies, Tom Devine, however, has criticised the event for focusing too heavily on the North American tourist market. Noting the scale of Scottish emigration throughout 700 years to mainland Europe and Ulster, Professor Devine told the Times,

    They should have had an over-arching umbrella statement about the sheer scale of migration. This was a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the world and to the Scottish people themselves what is a remarkable global experience. If you go back to the 13th century, right up to the present, the really enormous Scottish diaspora has been to Europe, but Europe hasn’t been invited to this.

    Professor Devine also noted, “American Scots have not retained the same level of expatriate ethnic identity as Irish Americans. They assimilated quickly.” Homecoming Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland in partnership with VisitScotland. Related links:

    “Homecoming Scotland” welcomes Scottish diaspora

    Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

    Deomonstrating the increasing efforts of nations to reach out to their global communities, Scotland is welcoming home its diaspora this year with a series of events comprising “Homecoming Scotland”. It’s Scotland’s first-ever “homecoming year”, and organisers are celebrating poet Robbie Burn’s 250th birthday as a focal point. They are also highlighting “some of Scotland’s great contributions to the world: golf, whisky, great minds and innovations and Scotland’s rich culture and heritage.”

    It’s a dynamic programme: there’s a “Celtic Connections” programme featuring a concert of traditional songs that have crossed the Atlantic with Scottish and Irish emigrants over the last 300 years, as well as a Jamaican carnival celebrating Burns Night. The website also includes information on the contributions of the Ulster Scots around the globe. May will be “Whisky Month”. The world’s biggest clan gathering will take place in July in Edinburgh. There is also a “My Special Place” competition, inviting visitors to photograph their favourite place.

    The director of the Scottish Centre of Diaspora studies, Tom Devine, however, has criticised the event for focusing too heavily on the North American tourist market.  Noting the scale of Scottish emigration throughout 700 years to mainland Europe and Ulster, Professor Devine told the Times,

    They should have had an over-arching umbrella statement about the sheer scale of migration. This was a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the world and to the Scottish people themselves what is a remarkable global experience. If you go back to the 13th century, right up to the present, the really enormous Scottish diaspora has been to Europe, but Europe hasn’t been invited to this.

    Professor Devine also noted, “American Scots have not retained the same level of expatriate ethnic identity as Irish Americans. They assimilated quickly.”

    Homecoming Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland in partnership with VisitScotland.

    Related links:

    Jamaica, US region look to Irish diaspora experience

    Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

    An interesting example of Irish leadership in diaspora thinking took place in New York recently, when Niall Burgess, the Ambassador and Consul General of Ireland to the USA, spoke at the Jamaican consulate on the Irish-American experience. The event was the first in a series of conversations with business and community leaders “aimed at inspiring critical thinking about the development of the Jamaican Diaspora Movement”.

    Ambassador Burgess spoke along with Moet Hennessy Chief Operating Officer Jim Clerkin in the event, titled “From immigrant community to Diaspora movement, the Irish Americans: a case study”.

    The event is one of a series of events hosted by the Jamaican Consul General in collaboration with the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board/NE USA and the Organisation for International Development. The next event in the series will focus on the Indian experience.

    Related sites:

    And on a related note, Ireland’s experience is helping to inform Pittsburgh’s attempts to keep in touch with its own exiles. The rust belt city has faced outward migration in recent years, and possesses an ‘emigrant community’ of loyal former residents.

    See this blog entry by geographer and social theorist Jim Russell at the Pittsburgh Quarterly : it references David McWilliams’s diaspora ideas and the Donegal Diaspora Network.

    Russell has set up an extremely informative website called “Cleveburgh Diaspora” about the Cleveland-Pittsburgh Diaspora. There is much of worth here about topics such as brain drain, attracting returnees, and encouraging investment from area natives living away.

    Visit the Cleveburgh Diaspora website

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