KEY ISSUES IN DEVELOPING THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION SYSTEM OF ESTONIA BEFORE JOINING THE EUROPEAN UNION
Preparations to accede to the European Union (EU) have posed new challenges to the Estonian public administration system. In a country with a European social structure, the public administration system has to fulfil important tasks in promoting democracy, ensuring regionally balanced development and providing regular public services. Prior to accession to the EU, the aspect of regional development becomes especially important, as nearly 80% of the overall EU Budget will be targeted through the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds towards rural and regional development of the Member States. One has to admit that today the administrative system of Estonia is not yet able to fulfil all the assignments that the EU requires from its Member States. Among other issues, the country’s weak administrative capacity has also been repeatedly pointed out by the European Commission. The main problem, however, does not lie in the non-compliance of the Estonian administrative system with the EU requirements, but in its ability to create favourable conditions for the development of the nation state. The increasing regional imbalances as well as the growing gap between the living standards of the rural and urban areas provide evidence that the Estonian central authorities are not able to fulfil their tasks sufficiently well. Local authorities often lack opportunities to effectively represent the interests of the local people. Estonia’s development logic does not correspond to the principles of the EU: in the EU the Member States, together with an increasing concern for the exclusive and balanced development inside the nation states, are also responsible for ensuring a closer integration between the Member States. Estonia would need to develop and strengthen its administrative system considerably, in order to be able to protect its national interests both before and after becoming an EU member. The aim of the present working paper is to analyse the key problems of the Estonian evolving administrative system, and suggest possible solutions. Most attention will be paid to determining the relationships between local governments and the central government. Firstly, the problems related to the evolution of the democratic administrative concepts in Estonia will be discussed. Secondly, the role of local governments in the society will be investigated. Subsequently the level of financing of local governments’ functions and its dynamic will be analysed and some recommendations will be made for assigning the proper financing schemes to the functions. Further we will study why it is necessary to accomplish the administrative reform in Estonia. Finally, the necessity and problems related to the widely debated administrative territorial reform will be elaborated on.
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