Plans for radical changes to Estonia’s local governments passed by Parliament

By on 09/06/2016
Arto Aas is Estonia's minister of public administration

Legislation proposing radical changes to the Estonia’s local government structures, has been passed by the country’s Parliament (Riigikogu).

According to the administrative reform bill which became an act on Tuesday, any local authority should cover a population of at least 5,000 and any authority which does not meet this criteria should merge with neighbouring councils to form new ‘local government units’ by the end of the year.

Currently, 80% of Estonia’s 226 cities and rural municipalities cover fewer than 5,000 citizens.

Arto Aas, minister of public administration, who presented the bill in the constitutional committee, said that eventually the government wants the new units to cover a population of at least 11,000.

The government has set aside €80m to help local governments with the process of merging with neighbouring councils.

The government is asking local councils to voluntarily merge by the end of this year, and says that any authorities which haven’t merged in 2017 will be asked again to carry out “voluntary mergers”, and if they fail to do so the government will step in and merge the local governments itself.

The Riigikogu voted with 56 members in favour and 38 against.

The government says the reforms will help local councils offer people better public services and ensure better competitiveness for regions.

However, the opposition is concerned the bill might marginalise remote areas of the country and intends to put forward amendments.

Aas said negotiations with most Estonian local governments are already under way and described the talks as constructive and serious.

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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