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The President of the Republic opened a plenary session of the Days of Cities and Rural Municipalities

The President of the Republic today opened a plenary session of the Days of Cities and Rural Municipalities in the conference hall of the Hotel Reval Olümpia in Tallinn.

In his opening address, President Rüütel noted that the key to local governments' development was a balance between the society's development demands and the possibilities that would satisfy the citizens. "Now, when through membership in the European Union and NATO, we have created a firm guarantee for external security and development of our state, we have to focus at the citizens of Estonia - the primary prerequisite for the preservation of our state and nation," the Head of State said.

According to President Rüütel, we, as a democratic state, have made the preservation of the Estonian nation and its culture through the ages our supreme goal, and according to our constitution the state is obliged to guarantee everybody's right to free self-realisation, education, protection of health, but also the right to state assistance in the case of old age, inability to work and loss of a provider. "To guarantee those and other rights is a duty of the legislative and executive powers as well as of local governments. This requires a very clear definition of tasks, resources and responsibilities of the state and local authorities," the President of the Republic said.

The Head of the State admitted that what concerned the development of our school system, defining educational policy priorities and making social welfare decisions, the cooperation between the state and local authorities was insufficient and not fruitful.

The President of the Republic talked also about the regional development problems, where the need for cooperation between local authorities was clearly felt in connection with fulfilling similar tasks, such as creation of favourable business conditions, maintenance of local roads, construction of environmental projects or organisation of vocational training. "Building up a cooperation network requires better cooperation between state and local authorities in order to join small separate projects together into one large scale project that could influence the development of the whole region or the state in general," the Head of the State said, and added that such cooperation would create better opportunities for using the EU funds, and would promote the development of cross-border cooperation.

President Rüütel also pointed out the issue of responsibility of local municipalities in the development of local government, where the main keywords were the ability to find new cooperation forms, to be open to joint activities between rural municipalities and cities, joint representation of the interests of local municipalities on the county and state level. "It was pleasant to see the solidarity of municipalities when the people who had suffered from the recent storm and flood were offered assistance by other rural municipalities and cities. I would like to add one more keyword - local governments' responsibility for the results of their activities. The image of the local government will be tarnished if indifference towards the problems of people is shown up, or if the interests of local officials or elected municipal leaders are put higher than those of the rural municipality or city," the President of the Republic said.

The Head of the State pointed out that it was hardly possible to avoid such situations merely enhancing the control by the state, it would be necessary to ensure the transparency of decision making process and open it to every citizen living in that rural municipality or city, and through that the responsibility of local government bodies and officials for the results of their activities would increase.

In his address, President Rüütel highlighted also the problem of protection of the essential value of the local government. "The tradition and peculiarity of organising the life of the territorial community has been a source of our national culture, a source of life force for our people, and the foundation of democratic organisation of life. The Estonian villages, townships and small cities carry on those traditions. While analyzing the merging and joining of local municipalities, it is worth to recall the lines from a poem dating to the new awakening period: "You live as long as your village lives"," the President of the Republic said.

In his address, the Head of the State spoke also about the elections to the local councils this year, and reminded that during the preparation for elections, it would be necessary to keep in mind that people believe only in realistic promises and look with suspicion at the bragging of parties that are trying to outdo each other, just what made the mighty men from Vargamäe so famous.

The president of the Republic congratulated everybody on the occasion of the forthcoming anniversary of the Republic of Estonia and wished that the discussions held at the session would create a fruitful soil for further development of local governments, as the strength of the state depends on the strength of its local governments.

Public Relations Unit of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, February 18, 2005

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