Government confirms formation of seven new municipalities
The Estonian government confirmed the creation of seven new merged municipalities on Thursday, the largest of which is Saaremaa Municipality, with a population of 32,000. Merger adviser Rivo Noorkõiv has predicted that of 213 local governments, approximately 100 will remain at the start of 2017, of which 25 may face forced mergers.
The seven new municipalities to be confirmed are those of Elva, Saaremaa, Rakvere, Tapa, Valga, Viljandi and Vinni. With these, the Estonian government has to date confirmed the creation of 12 new local governments, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
The government plans on confirming another 29 new local governments during its next sessions, said Minister of Public Administration Mihhail Korb (Center), adding that there are more to come as well as a number of local governments put the finishing touches on their own merger agreements.
25 local governments, however, do not meet the new minimum required population size of 5,000 and do not wish to merge with anyone either.
"According to the Administrative Reform Act, the Government of the Republic will have to do something about them in the future, i.e. offer proposals regarding with whom [the local governments] themselves can discuss merging and later make a final decision regarding with whom to merge them," said Korb.
As such, a number of neighboring municipalities who had abandoned merger plans may find themselves discussing the matter once again at the beginning of the new year, such as Keila Municipality, whose municipal council had decided with ten votes out of twelve on Wednesday to abandon plans to merge with the Nortwestern Estonian town of Paldiski.
Merger adviser Rivo Noorkõiv noted that in a number of cases, merger plans were initially met with enthusiasm but later devolved into arguments on such issues as what to call a municipality being formed or where its administrative seat would be located.
The adviser admitted that many of the local governments being formed in the administrative reform process choosing to make up new names in favor of using historical ones has also caused him anguish.
"For example, I think Lääneranna ["West beach" in English] is a totally new name; they will apparently have to begin marketing where this Lääneranna is located," Noorkõiv cited as an example. "It could have simply been Lihula."
Leaving merger decisions to the last minute may prove fateful for Kohila and Juuru Municipalities as well. As there is just one business day left to confirm a voluntary merger, these municipalities requested an extension on the matter. The Ministry of Finance told the editorial team at "Aktuaalne kaamera," however, that the law would not allow for this.