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The President’s Roundtable on Local Government and Regional Development found it necessary to continue its activity

The President’s Roundtable on Local Government and Regional Development under the chairmanship of President Arnold Rüütel assembled today at Kadriorg. The meeting was attended also by the members of the President’s Academic Council’s Commission on Development of Public Administration and Local Government.

At the meeting the Head of State said that the state that is not taking care of its local governments weakens itself. “We have discussed seeking Estonian Nokia both seriously and jokingly, as it is certainly difficult to find and formulate one single measure that would magically make our people rich and maybe even happy. Maybe our Nokia is hidden in the arrangement of local government in Estonia? There is a strong internal logic in it. But for that it is necessary to create better conditions for local governments and enable them to realise their actual potential in organising Estonia’s balanced development,” President Rüütel said.

The President of the Republic thanked the members of the Roundtable for their work so far and presented them a collection of articles “Estonia on the road towards sustainable development” published by the President’s Academic Council. The representative of the President of the Republic to the Roundtable, Professor Arno Almann made a summary of the activities of the Roundtable, established in 2002.

Everybody present considered the experience of the Roundtable valuable thus far and were unanimously in favour of continuing the activity of the Roundtable. The following arguments were singled out:
- the Roundtable is practically the only forum for regional associations of local governments that helps to harmonize attitudes and viewpoints and through that strengthens the cohesion between the associations of local governments;
- the Roundtable is one of the few, and hence, a very needed forum for cooperation between local governments and the highest level of state power and has turned out to be very necessary, for example, for the acceleration of the process of municipalisation of land and securing the stability of revenue base of local governments;
- the Roundtable has functioned as a balanced cooperation form that offers the representatives of local government associations an opportunity to discuss, at the presence of the Head of State, their problems with the leaders of executive power within the framework of fair dialogue held on equal basis;
- the Roundtable has offered both theoretical and practical support making the experience of different local governments both in Estonia and in other European countries available to the leaders of local governments;
- the example of Harju County shows that the money generated from real estate development or from some other source is not enough for solving all problems, there is a need for regional policy in all counties;
- the Roundtable is a direct source of essential information for the Head of State that helps him to see the problems in society as soon as they start and better facilitate Estonia’s sustainable development;
- the Roundtable as a democratic instrument is also important for a broad range of scientists as local government has a legal, economic, social as well as cultural dimension;
- the Roundtable facilitates the realisation of the President’s stabilising role in the society as the executive power’s natural thrive for efficiency can sometimes, due to its technocratic nature, get into conflict with democratic development goals.

A lot has happened during the time the Roundtable has been functioning: the Constitution was amended for election of local government councils for a term of four years, the Riigikogu passed several acts that regulate the work of local governments, structural funds were opened following the accession to the European Union, nation-wide discussions were held on the issues of politicising of local life, financing of local governments and municipalisation of land, let alone the local government councils elections in 2002 and 2005.All those topics have been addressed also within the framework of the President’s Roundtable.

The following topics were singled out as the topics that need to be treated further: beside the strengthening of local governments revenue base also the drafting of a regional administration model, and in cooperation with scientists of respective fields the elaboration of a theoretical model of Estonian local government level using the practical experience of other European states as an example. Beside discussions on development aspects of rural districts also more systematic treatment of urban politics was considered to be important. Local government leaders appreciate the Roundtable as a place where new ideas can be constructively and openly voiced out, the aim of which is not the adoption of quickly realisable decisions.

The members of the Roundtable thanked President Rüütel for a pleasant and understanding cooperation and acknowledged that the Head of State had always attached importance to participating in forums dealing with the activity of local governments and regional politics.

Public Relations Department of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, October 2, 2006

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