President Levits signs major regional reforms into law

Latvian State President Egils Levits on June 19 said he would sign a major package of regional reforms into law after it was approved by Saeima, but voiced lengthy criticism of the way the legislative package had been pushed through parliament and said changes could still be made in future to further improve it.

He said the government's consultation methods had stoked opposition in parts of the country and clear information on how the reforms would improve individual lives had been insufficient.

At an early morning briefing the former European court of justice judge also provided journalists with a seven-page document divided into nineteen sub-sections giving his reflections on various aspects of the law relating to territorial reform. 

"From my first day in the job as State President I have heard criticism of the mode of territorial reform," Levits told journalists, saying that many people felt they were not being listened to and that they were fearful of changes the reforms would bring, particularly in small towns and municipalities far from Rīga.

"I fully understand these doubts about losing local councils," he said, adding that people's sense of "cultural identity" could be threatened and they feared services getting worse rather than better.

Nevertheless, after listening to all the arguments for and against, he had decided not to return the law to the Saeima for further consideration, which is among his constitutional rights, as significant improvements had already been made compared to earlier drafts of the relevant laws.

Levits emphasized that the “boundaries of territories are not set in stone forever”, if later it turns out that the adopted model does not work in the interests of the community and could be changed by amendments in Saeima or via the Constitutional Court.

"These reforms will continue," he said.

As previously reported by LSM, on June 10 Saeima gave final approval to changes that slash the number of local government units from 119 to 42.

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