15-05-2012 | Faroe Islands divided into seven administrative regions
Most Faroese citizens voted against a recent referendum to merge all the municipalities in the Faroe Islands into seven administrative regions. Currently, there are 30 municipalities in the Faroe Islands, down from more than 50 a few decades ago. The nation's governing parties and administrative leaders have long argued that the Faroe Islands should consist of seven municipal regions.
In spite of the recent referendum result, the Faroese government is crafting its social care and schools policies on the assumption that the country is going to be divided in this way. The government intends to devolve responsibility for these policy areas to the regional level within the next few years.
In order to find out what Faroese people think about municipal mergers, the Minister of the Interior, Kári P. Højgaard, called a referendum on 3 May. The Faroese population showed little interest in the referendum: only a third of the electorate turned up to vote. Compared to national and local elections in the Faroes, which usually have world-leading participation rates, the turn-out for the referendum was extremely low.
Previous discussions of the issue have suggested that a majority of the Faroese population thinks that there are too many municipalities in the Faroe Islands. Even though several municipalities have merged in the past several years, many people still think that Faroese municipalities should be fewer in number and larger in size.
For this reason, the administration in power was unhappy with the results. The administration called the referendum hoping for a 'yes' vote, but most parts of the country voted 'no'.
Nevertheless, the Faroese government intends to continue devolving responsibility for two large policy areas to the seven administrative regions rejected by the electorate.
Responsibility for social care for the elderly will be allocated to the regional level over the next two years, and the administration of schools will follow some time later. This will force the municipalities to engage in new forms of regional collaboration and to coordinate across borders much more than they do now.
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