Mayors from 25 urban and rural settlements from all over the country will try to involve into the development of their localities the inhabitants who left their villages. Besides financial contribution, the mayors, also, count on the participation and mobilization in supporting projects that will have impact. Without any formal platform for dialogue, many mayors have already succeeded in attracting such investments for their communities. Tamara Grejdeanu is reporting.

In Carpineni, for example, those who left their homes supported financially the construction of 110 kilometers of the water supply system, as the shortage of drinking water is one of the biggest issues of the community. In order to convince foreign donors to cover a share of the costs, each villager’s contribution was mandatory, still this was too big a sum to give. This is when, the inhabitants who left their homes, parents, children, close relatives stepped in and thanks to them the project has been completed successfully. The local mayor, Ion Carpineanu, believes that the participation of migrant villagers in community development is possible in cases when the local public authorities identify the problems, the solving of which is much desired by the majority of citizens:

‘I will begin with the setup of migrant associations according to different countries such as Italy, Greece, where there is a bigger concentration of Carpineni natives and we shall try to carry out a survey in order to identify the main issues they see as an impediment to returning home. If our city hall selects an issue that is not on the migrants’ priority list, I can assure you that no money will be possible to raise from them’.

According to Valentina Carastan, mayor of Slobozia Mare, families usually keep in touch with their migrant members and this formula – perhaps an extended one – could work as a dialogue between the city hall and the natives outside the country or settled somewhere else in Moldova. She says, that, the villagers living abroad offered to buy new school furniture and reward students with the best academic performance, without even being asked to do that. In her opinion, the local public authorities should change their vision and not keep the migrant villagers out of their home community:

‘Let’s ask them from where they are, how they see things back home and what they think we should do first of all, in order to make them feel important, make them partners with us, so that together we develop our locality. The thing is they return to Slobozia Mare, they are not gone for good, they come back home and like when their village develops. There was a split between us before, as if they were strangers to us’.

The coordinator of the Migration and Local Development Project, Ghenadie Ivascenco, believes that once the villagers that left are identified, the local public authorities can also rely on their relationships, competence and skills:

‘There are natives who have very useful relations the city halls can benefit from. Some migrant villagers have knowledge and skills that can be useful for municipalities. It’s a new approach, as you may find that in almost all Moldovan settlements at least one quarter of population – the most active one – is abroad and until now we used to think these people are lost to their home communities. So if we think that we can change the point of view of these smart and active residents, then these people might contribute with something’.

Although the return of migrants is not the primary goal of the project, the mayors say that the successful development of their villages might lead in the future to the migrants coming back home or at least persuade those who have their luggage already packed to stay, believes Tatiana Badan, mayor of Selemet and chairwoman of the Moldovan Congress of Local Authorities:

‘As long as Moldova will lack national programmes for economic development both at central level and community level, we have to have a good platform so those who go abroad come back with their remittances or contribute to their native villages development. We will have only to gain from this platform, still if we do not provide them with a legal basis that offers more possibilities, they will not return’.

Until 2017, in all 25 settlements taking part in this project, associations of natives have to be established that would arrange the dialogue between the local public authorities and the migrant villagers. The first association was established in Selemet and only in two weeks it collected around MDL 40,000 for the reconstruction of the fence around an old cemetery in the village.