Ministers revive discussions on study for merger of cities in Greater Helsinki area
The proposal for an advisory referendum in the cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, for authorising a feasibility study on a municipal merger of the cities of the region, suddenly shifted forward on Thursday.
Minister of Public Administration and Local Government Mari Kiviniemi (Centre) and Minister of Housing Jan Vapaavuori (Nat. Coalition Party) announced that they intend to invite the Chairs of all City Councils in the Greater Helsinki area to morning coffee talks on the issue.
The aim is to arrange this meeting as soon as possible within the next couple of weeks.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat in February, Kiviniemi, Vapaavuori, and Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green) proposed that such a plebiscite should be arranged in connection with the municipal elections to be held in the autumn.
Just some three weeks ago, Kiviniemi announced in Parliament that the Government was not preparing any amendment to legislation for arranging such a vote, as the cities in the Greater Helsinki Area had opposed the idea.
However, the atmosphere has changed since then, which makes it possible to introduce the question again for debate, notes Kiviniemi.
Vapaavuori referred to an opinion poll published in Helsingin Sanomat last Sunday, indicating that some 75 per cent of the citizens resident in the Greater Helsinki area were in favour of a study on the implications of forming a single metropolis in the region.
In addition, around 50 per cent of residents said that they support the idea of putting the question to voters in the municipal elections.
When the poll was published, the Chairs of the Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa City Councils, namely Rakel Hiltunen (SDP), Markku Sistonen (SDP), and Tapani Mäkinen (Nat. Coalition Party) all said that the arrangement of such a vote could be considered, provided that the majority of people support it.
Only Edward Andersson (Swedish People’s Party), the Chairman of the Kauniainen City Council, was sceptical about the idea.
Minister Kiviniemi says that legislation required for arranging such an advisory referendum could be passed prior to the municipal elections to be held at the end of October.
”Whether or not there is any reason to hold another vote on the merger decision itself is an entirely separate question”, noted Kiviniemi, adding that she herself believes in Finland’s representative democracy, where councils are charged with the responsibility of making such decisions.
Of all three major cities in the Greater Helsinki area, Espoo has taken the most reluctant attitude towards the proposed merger and the related feasibility study.
Markku Sistonen, the Chairman of the Espoo City Council, said on Thursday that it is too early to assess the success of this kind of voluntary partnership, as there is no proof of how it would work out in practice.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ministers propose referendum on study for merger of cities of Helsinki region (19.2.2008)