Latvian regions threaten legal action over administrative reform plan

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Amid tractor protests in smaller regions and threats of turning to the Constitutional Court from larger cities, the New Conservative Party (JKP) announced that on Monday, November 25 the coalition conceptually agreed on joining Rūjiena and Naukšēni with Valmiera in accordance with the JKP proposal regarding regional administrative reforms.

JKP pointed out that business owners had gathered 2,480 signatures against joining the Valka region instead, which is a third of both regions' residents. In addition, Valmiera residents are open to joining with Rūjiena and Naukšēni.
On Monday Juris Pūce (Development/For!), the minister responsible for the reforms, went to Ikšķile to visit some of the loudest protesters. He has already held 40 regional discussions on the reforms, and plans to hold 60 more. The ministry has received and responded to more than 200 written letters from local municipalities and organizations, while phone centers have handled about 1000 resident questions and suggestions.

As previously reported, on October 16 the Cabinet of Ministers approved the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry's proposal to create 39 municipalities in Latvia instead of the 119 existing ones as part of the planned administrative-territorial reform.

According to the new Law On Administrative Territories and Populated Areas, Latvia will be divided into 34 regions, while Riga, Jurmala, Daugavpils, Liepaja and Rezekne will keep their present status as cities.

Dissatisfaction regarding the reforms remains high. The Latvian Association of Local Governments, feeling that their complaints are falling on deaf ears in the national government, have turned abroad. They now accuse the national government of violating the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

“We've already written to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which will evaluate charter observance,” says Association Board Chair Gints Kaminskis.

“We expect that the commission will come visit us in Latvia in December,” continues Kaminskis. It's also possible that Latvia can expect not only European observers, but also tractors from other Euroepan countries.

“Seeing the government's and coalition's arrogance and failure to listen to social partners, we're taking the first steps toward legal proceedings at the Constitutional Court level,” says Latvian Large Cities Association Chair Viktors Valainis.

Also previously reported, on Thursday, November 7 the Law On Administrative Territories and Populated Areas was passed in the first reading by members of Saiema. According to the law, 39 municipalities will be created in place of the current 119 local municipalities by the next local elections.

Votes for the law were cast by 70 members of Saeima. Members of parliament will once again have to vote on the law during the second and third readings. Proposals for the second reading can be handed in by December 18, 2019.

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