No. 48



Community-based Administration and Local Go-vernment – Link with History on the Road to the Future

14 December 2023


RiTo No. 48, 2023

  • Sulev Lääne

    Sulev Lääne

    President of NPO Polis; Lecturer, Tallinn University

  • Sulev Mäeltsemees

    Sulev Mäeltsemees

    Professor Emeritus, Tallinn University of Technology

  • Katri-Liis Lepik

    Katri-Liis Lepik

    Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Sciences, Tallinn University

  • Mikk Lõhmus

    Mikk Lõhmus

    Ph.D., Adviser, Local Government Policy Department, Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture

  • Innar Liiv

    Innar Liiv

    Ph.D., Associate Professor of Data Science, School of Information Technologies, Member of the Senate, Tallinn University of Technology

  • Jan Trei

    Jan Trei

    Deputy Director, Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities

  • Jüri Ratas

    Jüri Ratas

    Second Vice-President of the 15th Riigikogu

The article examines the historical experience of Estonian statehood and the role of local government in today’s world of crises, as well as future directions.

Historical events, like the birth of the democratic republic in 1918, the reform of 1938 that changed the boundaries and structure of municipalities, and the Congress of Local Self-Government in 1924 influenced the development of Estonian local governments and strengthened their role in the state. Historical experience, together with learning about the practice of other countries, was also very important in the restoration and development of the Estonian system of local government, including the relations of local governments with the state.

Over time, there has been a search for a balance between the state and local govern­ments. The article highlights the positive effects of reforms, such as the development of cooperation and the strengthening of democracy. The administrative reform of 2016-2017 significantly reduced the number of local governments, creating a so-called scale effect in many areas, while at the same time generating opposition to it and not solving many important problems. Issues of regional development, funding and the distribution of tasks remain topical. Partnerships between central government and local governments will be increasingly important in the provision of public services. The authors express concern about the limited financial autonomy of local governments that is mainly due to the impact of tax reforms. In the opinion of the authors, the new reform should focus on the development of democracy and cooperative action, together with the elaboration of a model for effective providing of services and funding based on local autonomy, and not on the size of local governments. The authors also emphasise the importance of innovation, new technologies and data-based governance and co-creation, as well as the need to continue more systemic and meaningful planning of local government activities, and development of resources, including human resources.