Estonia considers scrapping county governments in favor of regional authorities (1)
One or two of five options currently on the table, the Estonian state is currently weighing the possibility of getting rid of its current system of county governments in favor of four to six regional administrations. The decision must wait until at least June, however, when they expect to receive the results and associated proposals of an audit currently underway.
Under the direction of the Ministry of Finance, an audit of the functions of the state is being prepared, one focus of which will be the future of Estonia’s county governments, reported ERR’s television news.
Minister of Public Administration Arto Aas added that the audit would also help identify duplicate and unnecessary activities as well as make suggestions regarding how to arrange for the more efficient fulfilment of its tasks. The goal, he said, was to provide solutions for the modernization of the current county governments’ tasks and roles in order to ensure the quality and accessibility of public services to all residents.
“When reviewing the tasks of [the current] county governments, we will take changes resulting from the administrative reform into account, thereby assessing which municipal issues we can transfer from county to local governments,” explained Aas. “We have involved ministry experts as well as county governors in the compilation of this analysis.”
15 current county governments, five possible future scenarios
According to Saare County Governor Kaido Kaasik’s information, there are currently five possible scenarios being discussed regarding the future of county governments, including their strengthening rather than their abolishment.
Kaasik added that he himself had already proposed the formation of a combined Western Estonian-islands region which would include Saare, Hiiu and Lääne Counties.
The five current possible scenarios slated to be discussed in June are as follows:
1. The cessation of county government activities, after which would follow a transfer of functions to state ministries, authorities and local governments.
2. The cessation of county government activities and establishment of four regional authorities, which would begin to fulfill tasks including but not limited to spatial planning, regional development planning, and the supervision of local governments’ administrative acts.
3. The cessation of county government activities and establishment of six regional authorities, which would, in addition to the tasks outlined in the second scenario, would begin fulfilling the tasks of ministries’ local administrative units (e.g. the Estonian Road Administration, the Environmental Board, the Health Board) as well.
4. The strengthening of the 15 currently existing county governments by delegating to them the tasks of other state institutions.
5. The status quo — things are left as they currently are.
Aas noted that the Estonian Government would only begin discussing the possible elimination of county governments after analysis results, together with any suggestions, are presented to the cabinet in June.
If the decision to do away with the country's 15 current county governments receives the green light, however, the necessary changes would begin to be carried out after the implementation of Estonia’s upcoming nationwide administrative reform.