Voluntary Mergers of Local Governments: Processes and Results
It is not the lack of policies or analyses that prevents the changes in the Estonian local government system to be carried out.
The obstacles are much deeper and more institutional than is often perceived. Although mergers have an important role, the objectives achieved only by means of mergers tend to remain instrumental and, more often than not, declarative. The context of voluntary mergers is even more complicated because they include a number of factors which hinder taking full advantage of the potential of the merged local governments. Many bottlenecks of the local government system lie in the relations between the central government and the local government. The fact that local governments which have extensive autonomy pursuant to the Constitution are incapable of being an equal partner to the state shows that, in reforming the local government system, a much more strategic and more complicated approach is needed than can be achieved by voluntary mergers. The random mergers which take place in reality do not bring along changes in the local government system on a wider scale. Therefore the authors find that the central government uses the supporting of voluntary mergers to a large part as a fake reform plan in order to justify the failure to carry out a comprehensive local government reform.