Viljandi County’s Kõpu parish takes administrative reform to Supreme Court (4)
Kõpu, which belongs to Estonia’s smallest parishes, has submitted a complaint to the Supreme Court, asking it to assess whether or not the recently passed Administrative Reform Act is constitutional.
In its application, the parish argued that the government hadn’t considered all the possible effects and variants of the new law, and that the law went against the principle of proportionality. The demands to parishes, towns, and cities to redraw their administrative borders were neither appropriate nor proportional, they opined.
Kõpu doesn’t agree with the deadline within which the law wants to make parishes negotiate mergers, and also thinks the time given to hear out all the stakeholders is too short.
The Administrative Reform Act allows gives parishes time until the end of this year to merge voluntarily. After the deadline passes, the state will intervene and take care of the administrative reorganization of the remaining territory.
Sufficient time was necessary to defend democratic institutions, the complainants argued. Voters in the parish needed to understand and be told in detail in which administrative unit they would be voting in the future.
The parish is certain that the shorter timespan between the adoption of the new law and the next local elections (set for 2017) goes against the principle of legal clarity, as the Administrative Reform Act doesn’t provide for all the details of territorial changes and possible exceptions.
The council of Kõpu parish is of the opinion that all of this could be guaranteed if the time given to parishes to sort out mergers was at least a year, as it was planned before the final version of the government’s administrative reform bill.
In the assessment of the parish, the state forces its will on local governments with the Administrative Reform Act, and it does so both in terms of territorial changes as well as in terms of the potential costs of a merger, the compensation of which is not organized fairly.
Making voluntary mergers obligatory was the same as the state forcing mergers on parishes, representatives of Kõpu said.
The Supreme Court has four months for a response.
The Riigikogu adopted the Administrative Reform Act on Jun. 7 this year. The law gives parishes until the end of 2016 to conduct merger negotiations with the aim to create new local administrative units with at least 5,000 residents. Kõpu parish has 643 residents.