National Audit Office: the future of unreformed lands needs to be sorted out

Toomas Mattson | 6/18/2008 | 12:00 AM

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TALINN, 18 June 2008 - The National Audit Office (NAO) holds that subsequent steps of the government concerning unreformed lands require a broad discussion, due to the lack of the government’s clear vision for the future of available lands. As the goals of land reform in terms of the restitution and privatization of lands have been mainly attained, the completion of the reform depends on the capacity of the government to make up a state land reserve, identify the local government’s need for land and convert to civilian use the unreformed lands not needed by the government.

The NAO audit demonstrated that there has been no decision made on which lands are needed by the government, which lands should be transferred to local authorities or disposed of by way of auction.

One of the barriers to the successful completion of land reform is disagreement on the issue of land municipalisation. As local authorities seek to acquire land from the state primarily for commercial, production or residential purposes, they have no motivation to transfer to municipal ownership the lands under municipal buildings and roads. The municipalisation of the land necessary for the development and the performance of duties of local authorities are aggravated by the fact that preparation for the transfer is costly and municipal development programs and general plans are missing.

The government intends, by 2011, to enter unreformed lands in the land cadastre and dispose of lands not necessary for the state, for which EEK 682 million will be spent according to the State Budget Strategy 2008-2011. The NAO finds that, judging by the current practice of land registration and disposition, the process will be longer and costlier than expected.

The audit also points out that the government has neglected to manage the unreformed lands and the forest on such lands; this is why the latter have turned into favourite destinations of litter-louts.

The Minister of the Environment has agreed to most of the recommendations made by the NAO. However, the Minister did not deem it necessary to implement recommendations which in the opinion of the NAO enhance the transparency of the creation of the land reserve and arouse a broader discussion on the future of unreformed lands.

Background information:

As of early 2008, 45.5 % of the entire territory of Estonia (incl. 17 % in unreformed lands) belonged to the central government, 0.5 % to the local government and 54 % to private landowners.

The land reform began in 1991 with the aim of transforming the legal relationship based on state ownership of land into those based on private ownership of land. The reform has lasted for 17 years and by the beginning of 2008, still 17 % of the area of Estonia was unreformed. As to the completion of the land reform, relevant transactions concern 7 % or 300,000-370,000 hectares of land.

The Government of the Republic, in its activities programme for 2007-2011, has set up a goal to dispose of unreformed lands which are not needed by the state, under common and transparent terms and conditions not later than by 2011.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]

  • Posted: 6/18/2008 12:00 AM
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