Prime Minister Jüri Ratas replied to three interpellations that were connected with problems relating to the administrative reform in various rural municipalities. They were rural municipalities in Tartumaa, Järvamaa and Võrumaa.
At first, the Prime Minister replied to the interpellation concerning the name of three rural municipalities of Tartumaa – Võnnu, Haaslava and Mäksa – who have merged voluntarily (No. 293), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Krista Aru, Külliki Kübarsepp, Jüri Adams, Monika Haukanõmm, Artur Talvik, Ain Lutsepp, Andres Herkel and Andres Ammas on 18 January 2017.
The interpellators wished to know why, in the carrying out of the administrative reform, it had not been knowingly set as one of the objectives to preserve, where possible, place names that carry the history, social memory and regional cohesion, although a strong tradition of place names is one of the pillars of our heritage culture.
Ratas justified that, under the Territory of Estonia Administrative Division Act and the Place Names Act, the Government of the Republic establishes place names for administrative units, and decides on the change of names, seeking the opinion of the Place Names Board beforehand.
When discussing the problems relating to Võnnu, the Prime Minister noted that the name of Võnnu would not disappear, although Võnnu rural municipality would disappear in the merger. “Võnnu as an administrative unit, the name of a rural municipality, Võnnu small town is and will remain there. The name of Võnnu parish will also remain as an official place name,” he said. Ratas noted that, in the lead committee of merger negotiations, which included representatives of Haaslava, Mäksa and Võnnu rural municipality councils, all parties had agreed in the first meetings that the name of none of the currently existing local governments would be used as the name of the new local government to be established. The purpose of that decision had been to treat equally the inhabitants of the merging local governments and to avoid a situation where the names of the existing rural municipalities are put on referendum as a result of which the largest local government would be in an advantageous position because it has the largest number of inhabitants. Ratas explained that the lead committee had voted on the choice of name at its meeting in December. In addition to the name of Kastre which had been an option in the opinion poll, they had also chosen between Võnnu and Kurepalu that had not been put up in the opinion poll, because local people had presented supporting signatures for these names. As a result of the voting in the lead committee, it had been decided that Kastre would become the name of the local government established. As the name chosen by the local governments was not in conflict with the Place Names Act, the Government of the Republic had also approved the choice of the name.
The Prime Minister said that the name of Võnnu is historical and important but it definitely cannot be stated that there is only one correct option here. “In place name recommendations, it is also possible to proceed from place names known from smaller regions, provided that this unites rural municipalities, besides the names of parishes and centres. Kastre has got its name from an old stronghold of Estonians, it is ‘a name bigger than the place’. Kastre is also an old name of a rural municipality. Kastre and Võnnu rural municipalities were merged at the beginning of the 20th century, and Kastre-Võnnu rural municipality became the name of the then merged rural municipality until the rural municipality reform of 1938,” Ratas justified.
The Prime Minister also replied to the interpellation concerning the absurdities accompanying the administrative reform, on the example of Vastseliina (No. 297), and the interpellation concerning the absurdities accompanying the administrative reform, on the example of Järvamaa (No. 299).
During the open microphone, Jüri Adams and Peeter Ernits took the floor.
The sitting ended at 5.47 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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