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Supreme Court upholds forced mergers of five municipalities

The Supreme Court upheld the forced mergers of five rural municipalities this week. The municipalities had complained against the measures imposed on them by the Administrative Reform Act, saying that they were unconstitutional.

The municipalities appealed to the Supreme Court to look into the constitutionality of the forced mergers. The changes they contested included how the local administration is arranged, local borders, place names, which county the new municipality belongs to, and the register of Estonia’s administrative subdivisions.

The municipality of Mikitamäe in Võru County wanted the Supreme Court to rule that its forced merger with neighboring Meremäe, Värska, Misso, and Luhamaa to form a new unit called Setomaa is unconstitutional.

Padise and Vasalemma in Harju County contested their forced merger with the municipalities of Keila and Paldiski as well as the city of Keila to form a new administrative unit called Lääne-Harju.

The municipalities of Emmaste and Pühalepa on the island of Hiiumaa contested their forced merger with Hiiu and Käina to form the new Hiiumaa municipality, which will include the whole island and what is Hiiu County.

The council of Tõstamaa in Pärnu County contested its forced merger with Audru, Paikuse, and the city of Pärnu to form the new territory of the city of Pärnu.

All of the councils stated in their complaints to the Supreme Court that the government’s decision to enforce the mergers did not pay heed to the specification of the Administrative Reform Act, in particular the minimum amount of residents at which a municipality could remain the way it is.

They also complained that the government violated the principle of proportionality, and that it wasn’t treating all municipalities based on the same considerations.

The Supreme Court’s constitutional review chamber found that the government followed the provisions of the Administrative Reform Act arranging the forced mergers. The government’s directives hadn’t been in conflict with the Constitution, hence the complaints of the municipalities were rejected.

The Riigikogu passed the Administrative Reform Act on June 7 and it entered into force on July 1 last year.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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