Constitutional Court allows Jūrmala entry fee to be EUR 3 all year

The decision to suspend Jūrmala City Council's intention to raise the entry fee to EUR 3 and to apply it throughout the year was unjustified, the Constitutional Court (ST) has ruled, reports Monday.

Consequently, Jūrmala City Council has won a case in which it contested the decision of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM) to suspend the changes. This means it will cost €3 to enter Jūrmala in a private vehicle throughout the year.

Currently, the Jūrmala beachside resort town has a vehicle entry fee of EUR 2 which applies from April 1 to October 1.  Residents declared in Jūrmala and those who own real estate in Jūrmala have access free of charge.

Entry fees have been in force in the city of Jūrmala since 1996. As of autumn 2013, the fee was abolished during the autumn and winter period. The amount of the fee has not changed since 2014 but the costs of maintaining tourism infrastructure have increased significantly in recent years, according to the municipality. 

ST assessed the decision of former Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Artūrs Toms Plešs on December 16, 2021, to suspend the amendments to the binding provisions adopted by Jūrmala City Council on September 30, 2021, which set the entry fee rise to €3 and apply for the full year as of April 1, 2022. The Ministry then explained its decision with lack of justification for such an increase.

As a result, Jūrmala local government turned to the ST asking to evaluate the decision of former Minister Plešs on the basis of Section 115 of the Constitution, as well as Section 10, Paragraph 3, Section 12, Paragraph 1, Clause 6 of the Law on taxes and fees.

ST said that the arguments put forward in the order of the Minister Plešs were unfounded and that the Minister had unlawfully suspended the binding provisions. Consequently, the suspension of the binding provisions has been restored from the date of delivery of the judgment.

This means it will now cost €3 to enter Jūrmala throughout the year.

ST concluded that the municipality was entitled, on the one hand, to designate a special zone with the aim of protecting a favorable environment and, on the other hand, to impose a charge on the entry of vehicles into such a zone.

The municipality has provided sufficient justification in the explanatory memorandum to the amendments that the increase in the rate of duty and the extension of the period of application of the duty are aimed at reducing the number of vehicles entering the special regime zone at Jūrmala, said ST. ST also concluded that the municipality has assessed data on the number of tourism and accommodation services related companies in the city and the dynamics of its changes year-on-year, as well as has consulted the Advisory Council of Entrepreneurs, which has expressed support for increasing the fee and extending the period of application.

The judgment shall be final and shall enter into force on the day of its publication.

Jūrmala City Council later told Latvian Radio that the date from which the new fee will be in force will be decided on later, but it would not yet apply in December of this year.

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