Minister urges local governments to hurry up with mergers
Minister of Public Administration Mihhail Korb (Center) sent the local governments of Estonia a letter in which he recommended that they proceed with planned mergers voluntarily before the end of the year so as not to end up stuck in the round of government-initiated mergers whose conditions will be less favorable for mergees.
"I call upon all local governments to find the best solution for their home region together," wrote Korb in his letter. "Only you yourselves know in cooperation with whom you can best promote the development of your region. It is in the interests of local residents that as many agreements as possible regarding with whom and under what conditions one will merge be created before the end of the year — the deadline for mergers on one’s own initiative as defined by law."
Pursuant to the Administrative reform Act, mergers initiated by local councils must be completed by the end of this year. In the next stage, the government will then submit its proposals by Feb. 15 for local governments falling under the legally required 5,000 minimum population in size to merge with neighboring municipalities.
About a dozen regions across Estonia have already made their merger-related decisions, including in Saaremaa, Valga, Türi, Tõrva and Anija, however the decision still lies ahead for many more.
Voluntary mergers to take place before the year is out will be awarded merger grants as provided for by law — which will range in size, according to population, from 300,000 to 800,000 euros per merging local government — if the local government unit to be created exceeds the minimum required population of 5,000. Bonus grants of 500,000 euros will likewise be awarded to any new local governments whose population exceeds 11,000, however anyone who chooses to wait for the government-initiated round of mergers in the first months of 2017 will only be eligible to have merger-related costs covered.
Estonia is currently made up of 213 local government units, a number which is expected to be reduced up to threefold as a result of the current administrative reform.
Merger negotiations are currently underway involving 140 municipalities and towns in 40 regions.