What's in a Name: Cities Thwart Municipal Mergers ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Several negotiations to merge some of Estonia's underfunded local governments are being hampered by a question of identity for towns with a history of being a "city."

Namely, the towns do not want their status as “cities” to be downgraded to just being part of the surrounding municipality.

The mayor of Saue, Henn Põlluaas, said today that one of the reasons their talks with adjoining municipalities recently broke down was over this issue, reported uudised.err.ee.

"I guess there are psychological reasons here as well. Saue has now been a city for 20 years and it is quite a sensitive issue for city residents that we may one day no longer be a city,” Põlluaas said.

The same issue is stalling the leaders of Viljandi, whose history goes back to the early days of Lübeck Law .

"With a 730-year-old history as an old Hanseatic city, Viljandi should continue to be administered as a city and precisely in the capacity of a city,“ said Viljandi Mayor Loit Kivistik.

"It definitely would not be emotionally acceptable for the city's residents if the today's merger means that we must become a municipality by name.“

Neither of the two mayors supported a proposal made in the media earlier today by Sulev Valner, who is heading the government's municipal overhaul, that a joint name should be found for cities and municipalities.

"I can't say it that would resolve the problem. I think it would be more reasonable to keep the 'city' in city names and then the surrounding municipality would just be a hinterland or the city's municipality," said Põlluaas.

Kivistik noted that there are other reasons impeding mergers as well, such as the rural municipalities' fear that their councils will become too centered in the major urban areas.