In a Recommendation adopted on 7 December 2020, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe expressed its concern about the deterioration of local democracy in Latvia since its last report in 2018, in particular the lack of consultation in the framework of the territorial administrative reform.
"The report adopted today follows a complaint addressed to the Congress by the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Authorities regarding the modalities of a wide territorial reform that was adopted last June, despite our calls to postpone the enactment of the law in order to allow for adequate consultation with Latvian local authorities and their association," regretted, in a statement, the co-rapporteurs Xavier Cadoret (France, SOC/V/DP) and Marc Cools (Belgium, ILDG). "This is a missed opportunity for Latvia to adopt a territorial reform in full compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government which it has ratified, especially as it leads to a massive reduction in the number of local authorities and their financial autonomy," they stated.
In the adopted recommendation, the Congress rightly calls on the Latvian authorities to strengthen the responsibility of local authorities in financial management by adopting legislative and regulatory measures and to ensure that the transfer of responsibilities to the local level is accompanied by corresponding financial resources. In addition, the Latvian authorities are invited to revise the legal framework governing the suspension of the president of a municipality or city council and the dissolution of the council in order to reduce the discretionary power of the Minister (as is the case in Riga) to activate these mechanisms by providing a more precise legal framework for the cases and conditions under which such measures may be used.
Latvia ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1996. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter imposes respect for a minimum set of rights which constitute the first European basis for local self-government. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe ensures compliance with these principles through regular monitoring on a country-by-country basis.