State Puts €0.5 Million Behind Saaremaa Municipality Merger ({{commentsTotal}})

The dam connecting Muhumaa and Saaremaa
The dam connecting Muhumaa and Saaremaa Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)
A new local government formed on the merger of three municipalities in Saaremaa will receive 535,000 euros from the state to cover merger costs.

After lengthy negotiations, the local governments of Kaarma (population 4,700), Kärla (1,600) and Lümanda (900) agreed to merge in mid-June, with a by-election expected in November.

Interior Minister Hanno Pevkur met the current heads of the three municipalities over the weekend, saying the state will also offer legal advice for the merger.

Plans are still in the works to merge all of the island's 14 municipalities and one city into one administrative unit. Under a new rule. Kuressaare has the right to negotiate directly with municipalities for the purpose of bringing about a merger. Saare County also includes Muhu municipality, which is a separate island.

The previous wave of mergers took place during the 2013 local elections, when 18 local governments united into seven, bringing the total number of municipalities in Estonia to 215.

IRL's much debated administrative reform, which was shot down by the new government, would have force municipalities to merge into 50 or 60 population centers by 2017, but the Reform Party has said they oppose any forced mergers, preferring financial and other incentives instead.

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