Latvian regional ministry halts legislative draft on year-round entry fee to Jurmala

Latvia’s Ministry of Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Artūrs Toms Plešs signed the order on the halting of Jurmala City Council’s regulations regarding the increase of the entry fee and extension of its application from five months to a full calendar year, as confirmed by the ministry.
On 30 September Jurmala City Council deputies decided to make the city entry fee year-round from 1 April 2022. Additionally, deputies also decided to increase the fee to EUR 3 instead of the current EUR 2.
The minister reminded that the ministry had previously invited the city council to reconsider this decision. However, the city council’s amendments added to binding regulations mentioned no justifications for the increase of the fee and the need to making it year-round. «Unfortunately, the city council failed to consider tourism and road traffic intensity, as well as air pollution levels. There is also no information that would suggest regulations serve the interests of residents. This is why the ministry has decided to put this particular decision of Jurmala City Council on hold,» explained the minister.
The Ministry of Environment Protection and Regional Development had previously mentioned that the Law on Motor Roads clearly states that use state and municipal roads, including streets, is free, and municipal administrations do not have the right to charge people for using municipal roads and streets. Jurmala City Council imposed the entry fee to limit the influx and general traffic going through its territory.
Basically the municipality has imposed a fee for the use of its streets. This means the rules go against the aforementioned law.
The minister has concluded that by increasing the aforementioned fee and extending its payment term, Jurmala municipality failed to properly assess the proportionality of the amount of the fee and the service which the municipality provides in exchange for it.
The ministry concluded that the municipality has thereby exceeded its authority. The municipality has not held any consultations with private persons, not has it taken into account the rights and needs of businesses engaged in commercial activities in Jurmala but whose legal addresses are registered outside Jurmala.
One of the arguments used by Jurmala City Council is that motor vehicles contribute to climate change and air pollution. The city council adds that the goal of this decision is reducing transit flow within Jurmala’s administrative territory by diverting some of the traffic towards bypass roads, which generally does not reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Instead such a decision may instead spread the gas further and increase its coverage.
This is why the ministry believes such a goal cannot serve as a reason for such a decision. The ministry notes climate change can be restricted with alternative methods. For example, the ministry has developed a proposal to offer financial grants for the purchase of environmentally friendly and emission-free vehicles in 2022.
Generally the ministry concluded that the city council’s regulations were developed and approved without taking into account public interests, they lack justifications and are not proportionate, as well as go against requirements of the law. Jurmala City Council has failed to justify the major increase of motor transit within Jurmala’s administrative territory.
Thereby the city council failed to explain the need for the increase of the entry fee to the special regime zone and the extension of the payment term.
As previously reported, Jurmala City Council has decided to restore the city entry fee from 1 April 2022 and apply it for a full year. On top of that, the city council has also decided to increase it to EUR 3.