Latvian Saeima committee to explore unified services in Valka and Valga

On November 28 the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee decided to review areas where Valka and Valga residents could receive common services based on an international agreement by summer next year, according to the Parliamentary Press Service.

The commission met with Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Valka City Council representatives and urged the responsible ministries to make the necessary adjustments to ensure healthcare access in the Valka region.

Valka and Valga have been cooperating daily for 20 years, but apparently it's still not enough. Many Valka residents have decided to declare residency in Valga because of better options. “It's 400 meters from my cabinet window to Estonia. This city is walkable, not even mentioning cyclists,” says Vidzeme Party Member and Valka Mayor Vents Armands Krauklis.

"Essentially you can receive services in one place or the other living in Valka and going to work in Estonia, or the other way around. With that it really is one city,” says Krauklis.

Although the services are physically accessible, some services, such as healthcare, are not practically accessible. The healthcare system in Valga is better developed and financed, but those declared in Valka need to go instead to the Valmiera hospital. Because of these sorts of issues the idea about forming a closer financial relationship, or even unification, came about in the parliament. This discussion was made more urgent by the planned administrative territorial reforms under currently underway.

"Taking into account the circumstances the Finance Ministry also needs to be at the table, at least in the beginning until the center comes together and we work hand in hand and all the taxes are combined. During the first period we have to talk about additional financing for the Valka region or Valka free city or some other model. That won't be a few tens of thousands, but an additional million," says an Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry representative.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has asked several ministries to provide their proposals for developing cooperation with their Estonian colleagues to provide common services in Valka and Valga by next summer. The Valka municipality emphasized that this by no means will result in Valka being incorporated into Estonia.

As 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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