Åland in the European Union
Åland is an autonomous, demilitarized Swedish-speaking region with its own legislative powers in a large number of areas. The Åland parliament has the right to pass legislation in the areas below, many in which EU has competencies:
- education, culture and the preservation of ancient monuments
- health and medical care
- the environment
- promotion of industry
- internal transport
- local government
- postal communications
- radio and television.
The special status of Åland in the EU
After a separate referendum on the islands, Åland joined Finland in becoming a member of the European Union in 1995. Åland’s relationship with the Union is regulated in a protocol to the Finnish, Swedish and Austrian accession treaty containing a confirmation of the special status Åland enjoys under international law. In this protocol, special provisions for purchasing of real estate and the right to conduct business are included as well as provisions stating that Åland shall be regarded as a third territory with respect to indirect taxation. This enable tax-free sales for passengers travelling between Åland and Finland or another EU Member State and is in place to ensure the connectivity of the islands.
Chapter 9 a, section 59 of the Åland Autonomy Act regulates Åland’s role during the preparation of Finland’s national position preceding decision-making in the European Union. According to this law, the Government of Åland has the right to participate in the preparation of the Finnish position, if the relevant matter falls into the legislative powers of Åland or is of special significance for the islands.
If the positions of Åland and Finland cannot be harmonised in accordance with this act, the Government of Åland has the right to request Finland to declare also the position of Åland when the position of Finland is being presented in the EU institutions.
You can read more about the Åland parliament and the background of the Åland autonomy here.
You can find all the resources for living, working, studying or visiting Åland here.
Åland office in Brussels and EU
The Government of Åland is represented in Brussels through an office at Finland’s permanent representation to the EU. The representative of the Åland Government, Mr Anton Nilsson, has the diplomatic rank of Minister Counsellor.
The Åland office works, in close cooperation with colleagues at the Finnish permanent representation, to monitor and report from the legislative process in the Council of the EU and the other EU institutions. The Åland office also brings priorities of the Åland Government forward and helps liaising the Government of Åland and the EU institutions.
The Government of Åland is engaged in different forums and networks in Brussels. One example is the RLEG cooperation, where Åland joins other EU regions and autonomies with legislative powers in a joint initiative to come up with constructive proposals on how to make the Union more democratic and efficient.
The Åland office also offers and internship programme where a student gets the opportunity to participate in the work during one semester.
The Åland office is always available to answer any questions relating to the role of Åland in the EU.
Åland in international agreements
Åland’s special status under international law is based upon several international agreements. The oldest one is the Convention on the demilitarization of the Åland Islands from 1856, the newest one is found in the European Union Treaty of Lisbon from 2009, which refers to different exceptions connected to the Islands. You find all the international documents about Åland here.
Anton Nilsson, Minister Counsellor
Government Office, Unit for Legal and International Affairs
Finland's permanent representation to EU
Avenue de Cortenbergh 80