Government agrees on first administrative reform bill
The bill is the first stage of the government’s intended administrative reform. The law would determine the minimum size of a municipality, including exceptions, as well as the rules and regulations for changing the current administrative and territorial organization of the country.
According to Minister of Public Administration Arto Was (Reform), the government reached a consensus regarding administrative reform on Thursday. Aas, apparently in high spirits, called it “a piece of history.”
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) specified that the main goal of administrative reform was to guarantee public services and stronger municipalities all over Estonia. He stated that public services affected everybody.
According to the bill, the minimum population of a municipality would be 5,000, whereas the government's aim is to get to municipalities with at least 11,000.
"We recognize the municipalities that have taken the initiative to merge. If merger agreements haven’t been reached by Jan. 1, 2017, the government will make the decision," Aas said.
According to Aas, there are ongoing talks in 26 different regions, which will hopefully result in mergers and municipalities with more than 11,000 residents.
Municipalities that merge voluntarily will get greater support. If the new municipal entity has more than 5,000 residents, all mergers will get double merger support, or €100 per resident.
The government decided to raise state support for the formation of a municipality with more than 11,000 residents to 500,000 euros. Also, if a whole county should merge all its municipalities into one, it would have an advantage going for government funding in the future.
While this bill is the first stage of the government’s plans, the second will include amended legislation concerning the municipalities’ tasks and funding.
As the government put it, the overall aim of administrative reform is to increase municipalities’ capabilities to offer quality public services.
At present, 182 of Estonia's 213 municipalities are in merger talks.