Personal stories to open conference
The building of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, Riga. The Blackheads, participants in many battles, were an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners active in Livonia present-day Estonia and Latvia) from the mid 14th century till 1940.
By Ole Aabenhus
The Riga conference in December will be short, but innovative. The organiser, the Danish Cultural Institute, covers Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. To make sure that participants from Estonia and Lithuania can make do with only one night in Riga (Latvia) in time, the conference proper will start by lunchtime on Thursday December 10 and end by lunchtime Friday.
In addition there will be a visitor’s program for those coming from abroad (see below).
The conference will focus on “Migration – Refugees and Labour” – i.e. migration issues as particularly relevant to the Baltic countries, refugees as a major European topic right now, and labour as the long-term economic aspect of both in terms of working-age additions to aging societies.
This was decided at a stakeholder meeting in Riga (Oct. 22), part of the My!Europe project routines, where organizers meet NGOs, educational institutions and other interested parties to prepare the conference programme.
One of the issues discussed in Riga was how to include people from “real life” in the conference – e.g. one or two migrants who could tell why they left, how they got here, what they hope for. Some felt it would be difficult to find one or two who were “representative” of the many refugees who are now coming to Europe. Others that the most important was to hear their multi-facetted stories.
Keynotes + short interventions
Each conference session will have a keynote speech – 20-25 minutes – followed by interventions of approx. 3 minutes each. After a plenum there will be group work. The conference will emphasise the “relay” format of the My!Europe project – i.e. that the result of one conference will be taken up as material for the next. Therefore, the Riga groups will be asked to sum up their results in the form of a “letter” addressed to the German conference, which will follow in May.
It was noted at the stakeholder meeting, however, that these “letters” could contain solved and unsolved problems, including suggestions for further discussions on issues that could not be taken up in Riga.
The formal invitation which is now available, states: “The crux of the conference will be to develop approaches to what could be done in order to accommodate both the challenges of labor migration and refugees in a national, regional and European context. Are there common European solutions and – if yes – what should they be?”.
For those who come early to Riga – typically ISA members - the Danish Cultural Institute will organise a programme for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tuesday: Those arriving on Tuesday, December 8, will find, at the reception desk, suggestions for a 5-point walking tour around Riga, as well as an invitation for a tea-coffee where Simon Drewsen Holmberg, Director, Danish Cultural Institute, will give an introduction to Latvia’s position in the Baltics, in Europe and in relation to Russia.
The 5-point walking tour will propose such topics as the old city ramparts, an art museum, an Uzbek restaurant in Riga’s art nouveau district, the Museum of the Occupation – and a market for Latvian knitwear, linen table cloths and other handicrafts, perfect for Christmas gifts.
On Wednesday, December 9, there will be a guided tour and later a meet up where you can ask questions on Riga, Latvia etc. and get information about last-minute conference preparations.
To sign up and to inform the people in Riga if you arrive for the arrangements Tuesday and/or Wednesday, write Johanne Buur Bruntse at the Danish Cultural Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org