Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Finnish islands cause headache for EU treaty approval

The Finnish autonomous Aland Islands are causing headaches for the Finnish government by demanding certain concessions from Helsinki in return for ratifying the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

The local government in the capital Mariehamn has said it will ratify the bloc's latest institutional rule book only if it gets the nod for four demands, with the vote in the Aland 30-member strong parliament expected in the autumn.

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  • The 27,000 Alanders have had their own flag since 1954 (Photo: Wikipedia)

The minister responsible for the islands, former MEP Astrid Thors, visited Aland on Monday (11 August) but only offered some good news on one of the demands - Aland will get some sort of speaking rights within the EU.

She did not offer any concessions on Aland's request for a seat in the European Parliament or participation in the council of ministers' work (where EU member states are represented) on a role in controlling "subsidiarity," the EU principle that power should, where possible, be used a local levels.

But Mrs Thors did promise a special "Aland document" would be drawn up to settle the issue.

"I'm hoping for a historical settlement between Aland and Finland on how we are to handle EU relations and to guarantee Aland positions are considered," said Astrid Thors at a press conference, according to local daily Alandstidningen.

She described the document as "historical" and said it would commit the Finnish government to "listen to Aland's point of view."

Although Finland is able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty without the consent of the Aland parliament, Mrs Thors said that would lead to an "unclear situation."

"Finland must negotiate with the EU on what to do with Aland," a representative of the Finnish ministry of justice, Sten Palmgren, added.

The Aland Islands are situated at the entrance to the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland and forms an autonomous, demilitarized Swedish-speaking province of Finland.

When Finland became a member of the European Union in 1995, Aland's accession was dependent on the consent of the Aland Parliament. After two separate referendums it was agreed that Aland's relationship to the EU would be regulated in a special protocol, which is part of Finland's treaty of accession.

It states that Aland shall be regarded as a third territory with respect to indirect taxation. It also contains certain special provisions relating to the purchase of real property and the right to conduct a business in Aland, and confirms Aland's special status under international law.

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