2nd Forum – an update of perspectives for the city of Sfantu Gheorghe
Date: 5 April 2018, Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania
The forum organized on the 12th of March 2018 in Sfântu Gheorghe brought together project partners from Romania, academic researchers and employees of the local government, with local stakeholders, actors with various interest in youth migration. These stakeholders include organizations involved in local enterprise development, as well as the staff of the regional employment office. The aim of the event was to discuss two projects of the Municipality set to be launched within the framework of YOUMIG. The two projects are an online platform and a one-stop-shop service, both dedicated for issues concerning return migration.
According to recent research on migration there is a strong connection between the way people perceive regional developmental hierarchies and demographic and migratory trends. In simple terms, people tend to migrate from regions they perceive as less developed to places which they believe are more prosperous. Speaking at the forum, YOUMIG project manager at the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities Tamás KISS, suggested that the locally significant population loss of Sfântu Gheorghe can be explained by the fact that the city does not rank well in terms of its development either on a global or on a national scale. As a consequence locals, especially young people, move to places where they consider life is “better”.
Being strongly motivated in encouraging return migration, the Municipality of Sfântu Gheorghe will carry out two projects, which respond directly to some of the challenges identified by the academic partners. These two projects were presented to the audience by TímeaVERESS-NAGY, YOUMIG expert working at the town hall of the city. First, an online platform which goes by the name of Sepsinet, will be developed to facilitate information exchange between people originating from Sfântu Gheorghe. Besides creating a space for people living abroad to share their experiences, the platform will also welcome those who returned to their home country, and offer guidance through sharing useful information about reintegration possibilities.
The second initiative involves setting up a one-stop-shop service for the administrative issues frequently faced by returnees. The OSS will not make bureaucracy disappear, but it will gather and provide contact information, online services of local and central authorities, and forms to fill out, all delivered by a friendly and well-prepared “human voice” offering advice to those concerned.
All forum participants welcomed the two projects and provided further inputs for their improvement. For instance, the Association of Small- and Medium Size Enterprises of Covasna County (ASIMCOV), LAM Foundation and the OTP Consulting Romania, all involved in enterprise development and financing start-up businesses of Romanian citizens living abroad, provided further details of the frustrations experienced by those who intend to return and start a business.
Local organizations such as the Transylvanian Mechanical Engineering Cluster (TMEC), Youth Council of Háromszék (HÁRIT) and the Junior Business Club (JBC) stressed the importance of presenting recent developments and new possibilities emerging in the city. This approach provides further incentives for migrants to move back home. Szende MIHÁLCZ, project manager at TMEC, expressed her opinion about usefulness of organizing events such such as Start DIY Contest. This helps enthusiastic young applicants to work in teams and to develope their skills and creativity in order to design functional airplanes or cars byusing given utility wastes.
TMEC (language used in presentation: Hungarian)
Gergely BUJA, YOUMIG project manager from Sfântu Gheorghe, noted that as a first step activities that belong to the scope of the local government will be considered in the projects, but on longer run integrating relevant information and services of other state institutions and civil organizations will also be on the cards. Immediate actions include getting in contact with local and regional institutions in order to collect basic information about their activities, followed by the setting up of the online helpdesk.
The Sepsinet platform will offer not only updated information about administrative issues, but it is also meant to become a virtual meeting place of people from Sfântu Gheorghe living abroad, where they can share experiences on different topics, access news about cultural and sports events, and where they can follow from a distance the overall development of the town. Periodically new content will be uploaded to the online platform, like interviews, short videos with returned migrants, or people on a flying home visit, with heads of local institutions, and young, successful entrepreneurs.
The declared aim of the one-stop-shop service and the related online platform is to provide updated, correct information for migrants, while transmitting images of an ever-changing community, which is more and more prepared to welcome the returnees.