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Latvian government greenlights continuation of territorial reform

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

In spite of objections from many municipalities, Latvia’s government decided on Tuesday, 17 September, to support Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry to reduce the number of existing municipalities from 119 to 36 and allowed the ministry to continue efforts for the implementation of the territorial reform.

The ministry is entrusted with the task of developing and submitting to the government a legislative draft by 21 November on the new division of Latvia’s territories. According to Saeima’s decision, the legislative draft is to be submitted to the parliament for review by 1 December.

During discussions a number of representatives from municipalities criticized the ministry’s report. For example, representatives of Rūjiena municipality and businessmen criticized the decision to add Rūjiena to Valka, not Valmiera, with which Rūjiena has closer economic relations.

Iecava municipality’s representative criticized the idea of Iecava joining Bauska, which is not as economically developed as Iecava.

Latvian Association of Local Governments (LPS) representative Māris Pūķis said the ministry’s prepared solution is dissatisfying because it does not cover residents’ opinion about the reform. On top of that, topics important for the residents – schools, kindergartens, public transport residents – are ignored, adding there are no mechanisms to help resolve these matters.

Defece Minister Artis Pabriks stressed that if the government does not start the territorial reform now, it could be postponed for 20 years. The minister urged to start the reform without hesitation. Municipalities, on the other hand, are invited to present proposals to improve their work as part of the new reform.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš thanked Environment Minister Juris Pūce for the report, considering it was not a simple task.

Pūce thanked his partners who participated in the reform’s development process. He stressed that the development process of the administrative territorial reform was transparent – all opinions and arguments were heard.

The minister also reported that it is planned to develop a legislative draft for the administrative territorial reform within a month.

According to Pūce, approval of the conceptual report is an important affirmation that the ministry has performed the task given by government and the Saeima and has presented a territorial division model that allows municipalities to perform their functions ten years from now.

‘We have consulted with municipalities, society and social partners. We have taken into account argumeted proposals and data to form a territorial division model that reduces the existing inequality among municipalities. Additionally, municipalities will have the capacity to implement projects aimed at development.’ We are looking in a long-term perspective and the reform is Latvia’s opportunity,’ said the minister.

The ministry reminds that 59 of the 119 municipalities do not meet the requirements of the Law on Local Governments.

The ministry notes that in spite of population numbers, all municipalities have equal functions. However, many smaller municipalities are unable to perform all functions outlined in the law, which causes inequality to continue increasing. Administrative costs vary from 50 to 200 euros per capita. Only in 28 municipalities, costs account for less than 7% of their budget.

104 out of 119 municipalities receive grants from the municipal equalization fund and 57 of municipalities are able to provide jobs to more than 40% of their residents of working age, the ministry estimates.

It is planned that by implementing the reform this inequality will be reduced and residents’ access to residents will be improved, as will municipalities’ capacity to attract investments for infrastructure and business development.

The ministry stresses that the new administrative model was develop as a result of assessing population dynamics, mobility and service use habits, as well as after receiving data-based proposals after consulting with municipalities. Received proposals were taken into account in the development of a conceptual report, the ministry notes.

Between May and August Pūce met with experts and deputies of 114 municipalities. Approximately 50 meetings with local communities, residents, business organizations, other NGOs and social partners were held, the ministry explains.

At the same time, the ministry continues listening to society’s proposals. Meetings with residents will continue until May 2020.

Following the territorial reform, Daugavpils will become the second largest municipality population-wise after Riga. Līvāni will become the smallest.

Alūksne, Valka, Balva, Preiļi and Smiltene will become Latvia’s smallest municipalities after the reform. Each of them will have less than 20 000 residents.

Territory-wise the largest municipalities will include Liepāja, Madona and Jēkabpils, whereas the smallest will include Jūrmala, Salaspils and Mārupe.

The reform will not affect seven municipalities – Rīga, Jūrmala, Alūksne, Gulbene, Līvāni, Olaine and Salaspils.

Leave a reply to Justs

  1. Justs says:

    Soon 2 regions: Riga, Not Riga.

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