Thumbs up from government for regional reform plan

The Cabinet of Ministers on October 16 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 with their own governments and will not be merged with their respective regions, as had been the case with earlier drafts of the changes.

According to the ministry's plan, the reform will not affect five cities and four regions: Aluksne, Gulbene, Livani and Salaspils. 

To ensure the geographical unity of Olaine region, the bill includes a provision tasking the local governments of Olaine and Kekava to agree on their regions' borders.

The Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry's proposal was unanimously backed by all Cabinet ministers, while the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments maintained its objections to the reform. 

The government-supported reform model will be sent to Saeima for review - which promises to be a lengthy and potentially fractious process given the large number of municipalities and municipal workers likely to be affected.

As reported, the initial reform plan proposed by the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry provided for reducing the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 36. 

This week, coalition partners agreed to to support the territorial reform, adding three more municipalities to the initial model.

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