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President's roundtable discussed the future of regional administration

At President Arnold Rüütel's invitation, the Roundtable on Local Government and Regional Development assembled today at Kadriorg to discuss opportunities for local government in the European Union, the reform of regional administration and the need to conclude a national agreement.

As noted by Henrik Hololei, Head of the State Chancellery's European Union Secretariat, the European Union supported a balanced and sustainable development of regions. A window of opportunity to achieve the same would open to Estonia in the case of its accession. President Rüütel stressed that local governments formed the basis of democratic life in the European Union, and that they in Estonia, too, were going to play a leading role in shaping civil society.

The Members of the Roundtable were of one accord that if the voters in referendum decided in favour of accession, this created for Estonian local governments much better possibilities to satisfy the needs of inhabitants in their regions than so far, and for the whole of Estonia to develop evenly.

Minister Jaan Õunapuu participating in the roundtable provided an overview of articulated positions on the reform of regional administration. According to him, a proposal to strengthen associations of local governments delegating to them powers of representation and to give county assemblies, to be formed in this way, additional possibilities to direct development of regions, enjoyed broader support.

The roundtable took a stand that the reform should strengthen local governments both in legal and financial terms furthering, at the same time, voluntary mergers of local governments. Issues concerning regions should be solved on the basis of county development plans rather than political ad hoc agreements. The members of the roundtable stated jointly that the reform of regional administration should be launched without delay and be completed by 2005.

Andra Veidemann, Chairman of the Public Understanding Foundation, briefed the participants on the prepared draft of national agreement and called on local government associations to join the agreement. The proposal was adopted unanimously.

The President of the Republic said the fact that a memorandum of the agreement had been signed on 20 February of this year had confirmed the serious intention of the parties to act together in the name of Estonia's survival as a nation. In President's opinion, conclusion of the national agreement before long would increase our sense of security and be both one of civil society's first forceful declarations of intention and recommendations to those in power.

In addition, the roundtable today decided to support the idea of erecting on the slope of Song Festival Grounds a monument to the heroes of the War of Independence and freedom of Estonia.

Office of the President
Kadriorg, August 29, 2003

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