For a small region, the Aland Islands have a strong voice in national EU affairs. Now the Finnish Government proposes enhancements, which may be of interest ─ apprehension or hope ─ to other central governments and regions in Europe.
A few days ago we wrote about the slow procedure concerning the approval of the EU Treaty of Lisbon in Aland Islands: Lisbon Treaty (21 April 2009).
Preparation of EU affairs
The Government of Finland has now approved guidelines on how the small province (population 27,500) can partake in the preparation of EU affairs. Åland already is involved in the 30 something ministerial sections covering all EU affairs and in the EU committee consisting of the highest civil servants where they are brought together before being passed on to the Government’s EU committee, which coordinates EU affairs. Åland can also make its case directly to the ministers in the Government’s EU committee.
(All EU proposals and Council meetings are scrutinised by the Parliament – especially the Grand Committee - and Åland is represented there too, but that is another story.)
The aim of new guidelines is to find common positions between Finland (the member state) and Åland on all issues of interest to the region. If this proves to be impossible, the position of Åland will be communicated to the EU institutions in addition to Finland’s official view.
Infringement cases are problematic, because Finland is responsible for implementing Community legislation in relation to the European Union. But if the issue at hand is part of the areas subject to autonomous legislation or administration by the regional authorities, there is little the member state can do, if Åland fails to fulfil an obligation under the treaty. (Politically Åland has undertaken to finance the penalty payments in such cases.)
The Government proposes amendments to the Act on the Autonomy of Åland. The amendments require approval by both the Parliament of Finland and the Åland Parliament. Their aim is to guarantee that Åland can make its case in Finland’s reply to the Commission and to the Court of Justice. Åland can appear in oral proceedings and the region can propose that Finland brings a matter before the Court of Justice.
The Government’s press release in Finnish and in Swedish (23 April 2009).
The detailed guidelines are available in Finnish (4 pages), but I did not find them in Swedish (yet?).
The Government bill will probably be formally sent to the Parliament after the presidential session later today. For those who are interested in the details, but not pressed for time, the text of the proposal will be found in Finnish and Swedish on the legislative information portal Finlex in about a week.