Administrative reform is finally a reality – many addresses are changed.
In 2017, Estonia fulfilled the dream of many other states in the shape of administrative reform by turning 213 local municipalities (cities and communities) into 79. In local elections on 15 October 2017 the city and community governments of the new entities were elected and the reform finalized.
The reform changed the administrative division of state territory, with the borders of many municipalities redrawn. At the same time about 400000 addresses changed. This means that it is currently essential to make sure that letters carry the right addresses. Note: addresses in the capital, Tallinn, are not changed.
The reform was necessary in order to align the budgets of local communities to their needs and to make local government more efficient.
The legally set minimum inhabitant requirement for a community was 5000, whereas the state aimed at 11000 inhabitants for the new entities. Now 90% of local communities have over 5000 inhabitants while 40% have more than 11000 inhabitants. For special cases exceptions were allowed, e. g. for sparsely populated areas: administrative entities that form a single geographical and logistical unit and that together have an area of at least 900 km2 and a minimum of 3500 inhabitants were able to form one entity. Municipalities on islands in the sea were allowed to remain independent – e.g. the islands of Kihnu, Ruhnu, Muhu and Vormsi.
A cash incentive was offered for the voluntary merger of municipalities: entities that decided to merge in 2016 were entitled to a prize, while mayors and other heads of smaller municipalities who lost their jobs due to the reform received a gratuity. After expiry of the deadline, the state took merger decisions but without prizes or gratuities. All claims to the administrative courts to that end have by now been resolved and the administrative reform is also formally completed.
With 30 inhabitants per square kilometre, Estonia is one of the most sparsely inhabited states in the EU. Germany has e.g. 236 inhabitants per square kilometre, the Netherlands 505 and Finland 18.