Public Administration Minister Arto Aas said municipalities should meet three requirements, one of which is a minimum population of 5,000 people.
In an interview with Eesti Päevaleht, Aas said that a local government should have the necessary experts and be able to offer certain services, as two criteria, with a third, minimum population, to be either 3,500, 5,000 or 11,000 people, with the middle option proving the most popular, Aas said.
He said exceptions can be made, such as when four or more local governments merge, but the minimum population figure is still not reached, or if a municipalities becomes large in size, but with low population density.
Aas said there are very few people who say administrative reform is unnecessary, but there are many local officials afraid of losing their jobs and there are also questions about the names of post-merger municipalities. Aas added that the ultimate aim is to provide people with a better quality services and larger local governments are able to do that.
Administrative reform has been up in the air for many years, proving to be one of the stones which sank the Reform Party-IRL coalition in 2014, when the latter wanted to force municipalities to merge, an idea vetoed by IRL's larger coalition partner.
The new coalition of the Reform Party, the Social Democrats and IRL have decided to give more time to local governments to merger by themselves, but forced mergers are also on the horizon.
Estonia currently has 183 municipalities and 30 towns – a total of 213 local governments. Around 15 have a population below the 1,500 mark, while Tallinn is the largest local government with over 400,000 people.
Editor: J.M. Laats