The Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab replied to the interpellation concerning the right of villages to change their administrative affiliation (No. 416), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel, Krista Aru, Külliki Kübarsepp, Andres Ammas, Jüri Adams, Artur Talvik and Monika Haukanõmm on 12 February.
The interpellators referred to the fact that, in the course of the administrative reform, the need to take into account the wishes of residents concerning the administrative-territorial affiliation of villages had risen repeatedly. In most cases, when a problem had been raised acutely, it had remained unsolved.
The interpellators asked the Minister in what stage the making of the summaries of the mistakes of the administrative reform was.
Aab said that the administrative-territorial reform had been concluded, but not the administrative reform as such. The cities and rural municipalities have made the preliminary summaries. The minister pointed out the thematic days of cities and rural municipalities where many discussions had been held on what had been done during the administrative reform, what had gone well and what had gone badly.
“The prevailing attitude was that there is a new opportunity to do certain things, and to do them with better and larger resources than it had been possible before. And maybe it is possible to resolve some problems in local life, having larger and to a certain extent more capable local governments,” Aab explained. He added that compilation of an administrative reform analysis collection was in progress in which different opinions would be set out, where the process, but also the results of the reform, would be evaluated. In addition to the collection, the development of a methodology for analysing the levels of the public services provided by local governments is also in progress.
Aab said that the Territory of Estonia Administrative Division Act provided for the possibility for the Government to initiate proceedings for the transfer of a territorial area or, as had been noted in the question, to initiate an alteration of borders. At the same time, the transfer of a territorial area is within the decision-making competence of the relevant municipal council. “The decision-making ability of the municipal council as the local representative body, and its competence to lead the local life and to make the relevant decisions for that, must definitely be taken into account,” Aab said. He explained that, according to the regulation of § 8 of the above-mentioned Act, the Government-initiated proceedings for the alteration of the borders of an administrative unit would be discontinued if a municipal council or councils were against it.
“I would like to stress that this is a question of local life. I know that there are problems; even now, when I travel around in Estonia, it has been asked in some places whether it may be necessary to intervene in some way,” the Minister said. His clear recommendation had been to tackle the issue at local level at first.
Aab pointed out that it had to be taken into account that that would not be a very easy and simple decision of the moment. “The assignment of a village belonging to one local government to another local government is not simply about moving a territorial area to the administrative territory of another local government. As a general rule, various proprietary obligations, tax revenues, budget revenues and requirements provided for in legislation are also connected with a specific territorial area,” Aab emphasised. He added that such a wish had to be analysed through thoroughly, and impacts arising from the legislation of local governments had also to be taken into account. Likewise, in connection with the revenue base, it has to be calculated what such a change would involve in the specific local government.
Aab gave examples of transfers of villages, that is, territorial areas, from one local government to another during the administrative reform. It had been agreed locally, and both municipal councils had reached an agreement: nearly half of the villages of Palupera rural municipality had been transferred to Otepää rural municipality, Võtikvere village had been transferred to Mustjõe rural municipality, and Järvselja and Rõka villages had been transferred to Kastre rural municipality in Tartu county. Altogether 26 villages had been transferred to other local governments. “Therefore it can be concluded that if it is possible to make decisions and agreements locally, they are indeed made, provided of course that both municipal councils seriously wish it,” Aab said. “At the same time, when this issue was discussed with the participation of local government associations and the Chancellor of Justice in 2017, it was found that actually the Government of the Republic should not interfere with the decisions on local life in such a radical manner as would amount to a serious infringement of the autonomy of a local government, at least under ordinary circumstances,” the Minister of Regional Affairs said.
The Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu replied to the interpellation concerning the organisation of free state legal aid (No. 417).
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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