Three Saaremaa municipalities have been given the green light to unite into the Lääne-Saare administrative unit, despite initial hopes the whole island could form one local government.
The three municipalities of Kaarma, Kärla and Lümanda had agreed to the merger some time ago, but the national government halted the process, declining the initially proposed name of Saaremaa municipality, as Estonia's largest island has 14 other local governments. The three will officially become one unit on January 1.
The government also handed the new administrative unit 535,000 euros for merger costs. The new municipality has a population of 7,200.
The idea of one grand Saaremaa municipality has been on and off the table, like many other megers in Estonia. The previous government pushed hard to cut the number of local governments, which will stand at 213 after January 1, as many are very small and are unable to provide services required by law.
IRL's “Population Center” plan, which would have forced mergers until only 50-60 local governments existed, has been dropped by the new coalition.