In a visit to Spain, Italy
and Germay last week, President Rafael Correa met with Ecuadorians who have
moved out of the country over the past two decades. “I would like for you to
consider coming home,” he told a crowd in Italy. “We need you.”
By some estimates, as many
as 1.25 million Ecuadorians live and work in southern Europe, two thirds them in
Span. He gave his weekly television town meeting from Valencia Saturday, telling
the audience about the “great progress we have made in Ecuador since you’ve
been gone. We are now the third-ranked fastest growing economy in Latin America." he said. "There's a place for you in your homeland.”
Several days earlier, in Milan, Italy, Correa
thanked a crowd of about 500 Ecuadorians for their support in the recent
presidential election. Correa received 77% of the European expatriate vote. “Many
of those forced to leave the country after the bank crisis of 1999 have already
returned,” he told the crowd. “There is a lot of hope among Ecuadorians, and
thousands have been able to come home.”
On Wedesday and Thursday
Correa visited Germany, where he met with German chancellor
Angela Merkel and toured renewable energy plants, universities
and biotech centers.
In his meeting with Merkel, Correa for the first time, indicated he would consider a free
trade agreement with the European Union (EU). Previously, Correa has opposed
such agreements with both the EU and the U.S. Ecuador’s neighbors Colombia and
Peru have signed agreements and Ecuador’s trade preferences with the EU,
negotiated two years ago, are due to expire at the end of 2013.
Merkel said she would support Ecuador's bid for a trade agreement.
In his visit to Spain,
Correa signed an agreement with the Spanish labor ministry to allow Ecuadorian
workers to transfer certification of experience they gained in Europe if they
decide to return home. The unemployment rate in Spain is currently 26% and is
higher among foreigners, including Ecuadorians.
According to Correa, Ecuador will expand its
website to include more information for expatriates in Europe and North America. Ecuador is offering tax breaks and other incentives for
those who return.
Ecuador’s labor ministry says that at least
10,000 Ecuadorians have returned from Spain since 2009 and many more are
planning a return.
Photo caption: Merkel and Correa following a meeting last week.