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Sunday 26.05.2019 | Name days: Varis, Eduards, Edvards
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The government encourages municipalities to unite voluntarily

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Edmunds Sprudzs

“The current map is incomplete. Latvia’s regions should be larger and stronger. We all want our regions to develop and be comfortable for Latvian residents to live,” – Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Edmunds Sprudzs says.

The minister emphasised that the institution and the government have given municipalities a confusing signal that the unification of small municipalities with large centres is currently an important issue.

On Tuesday, March 26, the Cabinet of Ministers received the report from the EPRDM in regard to the assessment of the Administrative territorial reform. The government said to develop amendments to the Administrative territories and the living areas Law. Amendments are to include an opportunity for regions to continue uniting with each other on a voluntary basis.

Sprudzs is satisfied by the fact that the initiated discussion about the future of the administrative territorial reforms is already bringing results – representatives of a number of municipalities have announced their intention to discuss further merging. Residents of some municipalities have been very supportive as well lately. Now this tendency is improved even more with the government’s consent to progress this initiative and prepare amendments to laws in order to allow municipalities to merge together voluntarily, Reform Party reports.

“The state is interested in having strong municipalities that can ensure the best possible business, education and creating opportunities for residents. These opportunities should be as equal as possible in all Latvian regions,” – Sprudzs says.

EPRDM’s State Secretary Ilona Raugze explains that large regions with large populations and larger budget capabilities were once formed as a result of the previous administrative territorial reform. However, there are still many regions that do not have regional development centres. Many regions have low municipal tax income and high administrative expenses.

The main problem includes regions that differ greatly in terms of development opportunities and their ability to offer services to their residents. With such inequality in the municipal system, it is hard to perform further decentralization of state services, as well as secure equal regional development, she said.

BNN previously reported that according to Sprudzs, the results of the recently carried out territorial reform have not secured equal opportunities for all residents in many parts of our country – this is one of the conclusions included in the assessment of this reform.

The minister explained that there were many small municipalities that were more or less equal before the territorial reform. After the reform, however, the regions became very different from one another and are no longer able to offer equal opportunities to their residents.

“This assessment proves what we have thought about all along. There are regions with 3 000 and 30 000 residents. There is no chance that these municipalities would be able to secure equal opportunities for their people,” – Sprudzs said. To give an example, he mentions that municipalities have different chances of attracting investments.

When asked about the municipalities’ willingness to voluntarily unite, the minister noted that the current indicators show that “the response rate would be larger than zero”. However, he did not mention a specific municipality: “I wouldn’t want to name any specific ones, especially during the pre-election period”.

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