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Turtle statue in the resort town of Jūrmala , Source: Ivan Zanotti, on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

National government puts a brake on Jūrmala’s plan to impose year-round entry fee

National government puts a brake on Jūrmala’s plan to impose year-round entry fee

The reason is that the municipal measure would not achieve the climate goals that supposedly justify its existence

Earlier this year, we reported on the Latvian seaside town of Jūrmala’s way of dealing with summer overcrowding by levying an entrance fee. Apparently, the town council decided to expand said measure by raising the price of the fee from 2 to 3 euros and having it apply not just during the warmest six months of the year, but throughout the whole year – starting on 1 April 2022.

Today, however, the Latvian Ministry of Regional Development (MEPRD) overturned the municipal regulation, with the argument that the latter is unjustified and does not serve the public interest nor the environmental goals it purportedly wants to achieve.

The reasons behind the suspension

Artūrs Toms Plešs, the Minister of Regional Development explained for LSM, Latvia’s public broadcaster, that the town council has not done its job in proper assessment of the impact of such fee expansion. As a result, it does not meet the public interest and is disproportionate.

For one, it contradicts the Law on Motorways, which stipulates that state and municipal roads, including streets, may be used free of charge.

Moreover, the municipality has not consulted with private persons when drafting the regulation. The decision does not take into account the rights and needs of merchants who are engaged in commercial activities in Jūrmala, but whose legal addresses are registered outside of the resort town.

The town council also stated that road transport contributes to climate change and air pollution. On the other hand, the actual aim of the decision is to reduce the transit flow on the territory of Jūrmala by diverting part of it to a bypass, which in general does not contribute to the reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it may even increase their amount. Consequently, the stated objective cannot serve as a basis for the decision taken.

The Ministry, for its part, stated that it will develop a proposal to offer financial subsidies, in the form of grants from 2022 onwards, for the express purchase of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles. That in the national government’s view is a more sustainable practice than cordoning off whole cities to free public access.

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