12 local government leaders call on new government to halt administrative reform
Twelve Estonian local government leaders have submitted a joint appeal to the chairmen of the three parties currently negotiating a new coalition agreement, calling on the new government to halt the ongoing administrative reform, reported daily Postimees.
The Administrative Reform Act, which was passed on June 7 and went into effect on July 1, was rushed through the Riigikogu despite the reform needing longer and more thorough consideration, the municipal leaders stated in their appeal to Center Party Chairman Jüri Ratas, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) Chairman Margus Tsahkna and Social Democratic Party (SDE) Chairman Jevgeni Ossinovski.
They pointed out that 26 local self-governments have asked the Supreme Court to void several provisions of the law, including the regulation on mandatory mergers of municipalities, because of their unconstitutionality.
"Namely, the Administrative Reform Act, effective July 1, is in part unconstitutional and in conflict with municipalities' constitutional guarantees," read the appeal. "In the course of the administrative reform, the capabilities of municipalities are assessed solely by the minimum size, or 5,000-resident population, criterion, but this is not sufficient as the only criterion and exceptions from it are too narrow. Other criteria that would allow to consider specific features and evaluate administrative capability are effectively not taken into account."
Because of this, it is not possible to differentiate between capable and incapable municipalities, and neither the minimum population size of a municipal unit nor forced merger based solely upon population size is proportionate, the local leaders argued.
In view of that, the signatories are asking the negotiating parties to consider halting the whole reform and adopting the Administrative Reform Act anew together with criteria for the content and quality of the services provided by local authorities or, failing that, to amend the law to eliminate mandatory mergers at the government's initiative and the discriminatory provisions concerning merger support and compensation for merger-related expenses. The local leaders also stated that all deadlines set out in the law should be reviewed so that the reform would not be carried out hastily and without due consideration.
The twelve signatories of the joint appeal were as follows (party membership as based on commercial register data):
Jozsef Weinrauch, Pala Municipality (EKRE)
Ivar Tedrema, Kambja Municipality (EKRE)
Aivar Aleksejev, Ülenurme Municipality (Reform)
Aare Anderson, Luunja Municipality (IRL)
Rain Sangernebo, Nõo Municipality (IRL)
Andrus Blok, Rakke Municipality (IRL)
Andrus Toss, Tudulinna Municipality (independent)
Veikko Luhalaid, Vaivara Municipality (Center)
Viktor Rauam, Lüganuse Municipality (independent)
Värner Lootsmann, town of Loksa (Center)
Gennadi Kulkov, town of Kallaste (EKRE)
Andres Hanso, Pöide Municipality (SDE)