TALLINN - Estonia's Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman is visiting Helsinki on Wednesday to meet with Finland's Minister of Regional Affairs Sirpa Paatero, share Estonia's experience related to the administrative reform and discuss opportunities for continued cooperation on regional development and open governance.
In remarks released through spokespeople, Solman said that Finland has been a good cooperation partner of Estonia for very long.
"While at first we were more like a little brother learning from a bigger and smarter one, Estonia's development has now reached a point where we have become more equal and in some areas even more successful," Solman said. "We have a lot to share and learn from each other. That is why cooperation meetings with Finland continue to be very necessary and constructive."
At Wednesday's meeting, the Estonian delegation will share with Finnish officials the country's experiences with the regional administration reform, which took place in fall 2017, just more than five years ago.
"I am pleased to be able to tell my Finnish colleagues that in a recent survey, 75 percent of local government leaders rated the administrative reform generally positively. The clearest positive opinions were about the increase in administrative capabilities and the diversity and quality of services. These are experiences that are a joy to share with others," the minister from Isamaa party said.
The meeting will also discuss the challenges facing both countries in public administration and regional policies. For Estonia, one of the key challenges is to increase the financial autonomy of municipalities and thus their capabilities, including to deal with crises.
"The neighboring country has been, and continues to be, a great example for us when it comes to setting local government policy goals. Finland's municipalities have a strong autonomy, and their know-how is something we can tap into," Solman said.
Cross-border cooperation between Estonia and Finland and the challenges of the eastern border regions will also be discussed.
The eastern border regions of Finland and Estonia used to engage in active cooperation with the border regions of Russia with funding from European cooperation programs. Following Russia's attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the European Commission suspended cooperation with Russia and the preparation of new joint programs. The war in Ukraine damaged the investment environment in these regions, caused a disruption of supply chains, as well as a decrease in tourism.
The Estonian minister noted that we are now in a situation where countries have to decide how to re-plan the EU financial resources originally set aside for undertakings involving Russia.
"We will explore and analyze different options and work closely with our Finnish colleagues. We believe that the meeting will contribute to finding a solution and further intensify cooperation between the regions of the two countries," she said.
Furthermore, the meeting will discuss ways and means to increase open governance.
"Estonia is the government chair of the Open Government Partnership this year and will host a global summit in the autumn. This is an important platform to share experiences on how to ensure open governance in crises and especially in the current security situation," the minister said.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2011 to increase openness, transparency and dialogue with the people in the exercise of public authority. The underlying principle of the initiative is to operate in partnership between government agencies and non-governmental organizations. In ten years, the number of members of OGP has grown from eight to 77 countries. Estonia joined the initiative in 2012.