Ukraine’s local governments look to Latvia for ways of reform

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A delegation of Ukrainian parliamentary, presidential chancellery and local government representatives visited the former Madona region, or rajons, as it used to be known before Latvia’s territorial administrative reform of its elected local government system, which is exactly the experience the Ukrainians are hoping to learn from, reported regional channel Vidzemes televīzija news crew Friday.

Arnis Šults, deputy director of the Local Governments department at the Environment and Regional Affairs (VARAM) ministry said that “their system is very, very complicated and it’s completely understandable why they need these kinds of reforms in their administrative structure.”

According to Anatoly Tkachuk, an aide to Ukraine’s vice-premier on local government affairs, now is the time to pick the brains of the newer EU states’ experiences in implementing their reforms. The law is currently in the Ukrainian parliament in its second reading.

Ukraine’s own system is described as a similar mess like Latvia was in before promoting voluntary unification among the smallest local units, only its system is much larger – starting with 488 regional councils and more than 10,000 village councils.

“What we saw in Latvia – now that’s a logical system,” said Tkachuk. “You don’t need to come here to get the basics, but the nuances you cannot read on the internet, you have to see for yourself. I’ve written twelve pages full of notes and sent them home to Ukraine where they’re already under discussion,” he remarked.

Though Ukraine’s reform of its local government system has been considered to have been launched for years now, the Ukrainians admit the current situation has affected its course.

“Of course it’s an influence. In the east we have war, we’re at war with Russia and terrorist forces and it’s a problem, but you can’t just make reforms when everybody’s doing fine, either. Then nobody wants to do anything about it, so on the one hand its complicated, but on the other – it’s a chance to get some reforms done,” explained Tkachuk.

But along with their practical sharing of local government know-how, the Ukrainian delegation stressed the emotional wave of support they felt wherever they went in Latvia. “Solidarity, support is so important to Ukraine right now, so we’ve had the best impressions and hope to cooperate further with our partners in Latvia,” added Ukraine’s representative to the Council of Europe Olga Shevchuk.


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