Landskapet Åland
Åland Islands

Autonomous region of ‌Finland
Flag of Åland Coat of Arms of Åland
Islands of Peace
Ålänningens sång
Map of Åland
Government Parliamentary democracy
- From 1999Peter Lindbäck
Chief minister
- 2007-2011Viveka Eriksson
- From 2011Camilla Gunell
Legislature Lagting
August 20, 1917 Popular movement to rejoin Sweden.
December 6, 1917Part of Finland
June 13, 1918Swedish troops leave
June 24, 1921League of Nations ruling
June 9, 1922Autonomy within Finland
January 1, 1995Accession to the European Union
Area13,517 km²
- 200927,700
NUTS RegionFI2
Flag of None Province of Åland

The Åland Islands is an autonomous region of Finland, located in the Baltic Sea. In 1994 the Åland Islands held a separate referendum which approved the islands accession to the European Union, together with Finland in the following year.


The first security policy issue Finland faced upon becoming independent concerned the Åland Islands. Settled by Swedes in about the sixth century A.D., the islands were administered as part of Finland as long as Sweden was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. In 1809 they were transferred to Russian sovereignty, where they remained until the Russian Revolution. Throughout this period, almost all of the inhabitants of the Åland Islands, the Ålanders, continued to be Swedish speakers. During the chaos of the Russian Revolution, the Ålanders began negotiations to be united with Sweden, a move that was later supported in a plebiscite by 96 percent of the islands' inhabitants. The Swedish government welcomed this move, and in February 1918 sent troops who disarmed the Russian forces and the Red Guards, of the unrecognized Finnish Socialist Conciliar Republic, on the islands. The Finns felt that the Swedish intervention in the Åland Islands represented an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of Finland. Tension rose as both countries claimed the islands, Sweden emphasizing the principle of national self-determination and Finland pointing to its historical rights and to the need to have the islands in order to defend Finland's southwestern coast. The German Empire then moved into the islands as part of its intervention in the civil war and forced out the Swedes; later that year, however, Germany handed the islands over to Finland. The Finns arrested the Åland separatist leaders on charges of treason. In 1920 both countries referred the matter to the League of Nations, which ruled the following year in favor of Finland. The Swedes were placated by the demilitarization of the islands as well as by the grant of extensive autonomy to the Ålanders, a settlement that still remains.[1]


The Åland Islands enjoys considerable autonomy by virtue of the Autonomy Act of 1951 that guarantees the way of life and the preservation of Swedish traditions on the islands. The 1951 law was supplemented by a 1975 law that restricts the acquisition of real estate on the islands. Both laws have constitutional status, and they may be altered only in accordance with the strict parliamentary provisions that protect the Constitution.

In addition to this protection against legislation prejudicial to its interests, the archipelago's parliamentary assembly, the Lagting, has the right to ratify laws affecting it. The Lagting consists of thirty members elected on the basis of proportional representation for four-year terms. Voters must be eighteen years of age by the year of the election and must have the right of domicile on the islands, a right acquired by living for at least five years in the province. Those with this right may also exercise certain professions and may acquire real estate, and they may not be conscripted if they have been residents of the islands since before their twelfth year. This last provision resulted from the demilitarized and neutral status of the islands established by a decision of the League of Nations in 1921.

The Lagting has the right to pass laws that touch on administration, provincial taxation, police matters, transportation, health care, and cultural matters. Issues relating to the Constitution, national defense, foreign affairs, the judiciary, family law, and civil law are outside its competence. All laws passed by the Lagting must be approved by the president of the republic, who may veto those laws judged to exceed the Lagting's competence or to damage the country's internal or external security.[2]


The highest executive authority on the islands is the autonomous Government of Åland, consisting of seven members elected by, and from within, the Lagting. The government must enjoy the confidence of the Lagting to carry out its duties, and the premier can be forced to resign if this is not the case.

The governor in Mariehamn the represents the national government of Finland. He is appointed by the president of the republic, but only after the approval of the Lagting, and is responsible for those administrative functions beyond the competence of regional authorities. Another link between the islands and the national government is the Åland Delegation, usually headed by the governor; its other four members are chosen by the Council of State of Finland and the Lagting. The delegation's chief duties are supervising transfers of funds from the national government to the regional government, to pay for the costs of self government, and examining laws passed by the Lagting, before sending them to the president. In addition to these ties between the archipelago and the mainland, the province has one representative in the Riksdag, the national parliament, who usually has a seat on the Constitutional Committee in order to protect the islands' rights. Since 1970 the islands has had one delegate at the annual meeting of the Nordic Council (|).

During the late 1980s, changes of a constitutional nature in the relations between the Åland Islands and the national government were under review in the Riksdag. The projected legislation touched on increased provincial control of the taxes the archipelago pays or generates and on greater control over radio and television reception, with the aim of increasing access to programming from Sweden and to the Swedish-language programs of the Finnish broadcasting system. Having secured the right to issue their own stamps in 1984, the archipelago's inhabitants also wanted to have their own postal system, a right still reserved to the national government. Under discussion, too, were international guarantees for the islands' security.[3]


  • Peter Lindbäck () (April 1, 1999 - )

Chief minister

  • Viveka Eriksson () (November 26, 2007 - November 25, 2011)
  • Camilla Gunell () (November 25, 2011 - )


  1. Library of Congress - Country Studies: Finland: Chapter 1 - Historical Setting
  2. Library of Congress - Country Studies: Finland: Chapter 4 - Government and Politics
  3. Library of Congress - Country Studies: Finland: Chapter 4 - Government and Politics