Åland in Europe


  Åland in Europe

Aland in EuropeÅland

Åland is an archipelago of 6,500 islands and skerries at the heart of the Nordic region. It is a self-governing region of Finland and has a population of 30,129 (2021). In those areas where it has legislative authority Åland functions almost as an independent state. Swedish is the official language in Åland. Åland is a demilitarised zone and may not be fortified.


From 1917–1921 the people of Åland fought for the reunification of Åland with its former mother country, Sweden. Finland was unwilling to give up the Islands and instead offered internal autonomy. 
When the offer was rejected the dispute was referred to the League of Nations in Geneva, which in 1921 decided that Åland should remain a part of Finland but receive a wide autonomy. On its part, Finland undertook to safeguard the Swedish language, culture and local customs of the Ålanders.

The Legislative Assembly

The first elections to Åland’s parliament, the Legislative Assembly, were held in 1922. 
The Legislative Assembly met for the first time on 9 June 1922, and this day is now celebrated as the founding day of Åland’s autonomy.
The Legislative Assembly has 30 members who are elected for four-year terms. In the latest elections, which were held in October 1999, six political groupings gained seats in the Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly appoints the members of the Åland Government. 
Åland also has one seat in the Finnish Parliament.

The Autonomy Act

The Act on the Autonomy of Åland lists the areas in which the Legislative Assembly has legislative authority. Principally, these are: education and culture, healthcare and hospitals, environmental issues, trade and industry, internal transports, policing, postal administration, and radio and television. 
Finnish law applies in areas such as foreign affairs as well as in civil and criminal law matters. 
The Finnish State levies taxes and customs duties in Åland but returns a share of the Government’s budget to the Legislative Assembly, for the administration of matters which in other parts of Finland are handled by the State.
When Finland enters into an international treaty which concerns Åland, the consent of the Legislative Assembly is required. An example of this was the accession of Finland and Åland to the European Union.

The right of domicile

Åland has a form of regional citizenship called the right of domicile. Enjoying the right of domicile is a requirement for the right to vote and for presenting oneself as a candidate in elections to the Legislative Assembly. It is also required for the ownership of land and conduct of business, although exemptions can sometimes be granted in these areas. 
Children are granted the right of domicile at birth if either parent has the right of domicile.
Immigrants who have an acceptable knowledge of Swedish and are Finnish citizens, are entitled to apply for the right of domicile after living in Åland for five years. Those who leave Åland lose their right of domicile after five years.

Shipping and industry

Shipping is the mainstay of Åland’s industrial sector, accounting for over 40 per cent of regional GDP. The Ålanders, who have sailed the seas since time immemorial, have gradually adapted the industry to changing requirements. 
Today, Åland has several shipping companies operating in different sectors: passenger traffic, goods traffic and international tanker shipping. About 13 per cent of Ålanders work at sea. 
Good communications have also been the precondition for the strong development of the more than 1,800 land-based enterprises in Åland. Åland’s hi-tech and engineering industries have been growing rapidly. Many Ålandic companies provide products and services to large industrial companies outside Åland.


The special character of the Ålandic landscape and archipelago attracts many visitors, and tourism is a growing industry. There are well-developed facilities for tourists. 
In 2001 Åland had 1.7 million visitors, and the number of hotel nights was about 560,000. In the summer months visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming, golf, cycling and boating in an environment of great natural beauty. Opportunities for recreational fishing are good all year round. Thanks to its location at the heart of the Nordic region, Åland is also a popular destination for conferences and sports competitions with many international participants. 


Most of Åland’s farms are very small. About one third of the roughly 800 farms have only 10–20 hectares of farmland, but agriculture is an important industry for the population outside Mariehamn. 
Ålandic farmers have a lot of experience and a long tradition of cultivating special crops such as sugar beets, onions, apples and potatoes. The growing season lasts from May to October. 
Public demand for clean agricultural products is growing, and in 2001 almost 10 per cent of all farmland in Åland was used for organic farming.
The food industry is the largest land-based industry in Åland. There is a potential for developing the processing of products from the farming and fisheries industries. 


Thanks to its long maritime history, Åland is an open society that has had and continues to enjoy close contacts with peoples and cultures across the seas. 
Åland’s culture is a blend of local traditions and influences from distant lands. The Islands also have a close cultural exchange with the other Nordic countries. 
The Ålandic landscape has inspired many painters and the Islanders’ dependence on the sea, fishing and shipping is a recurring theme in the literature of the region. 
A characteristic feature are the maypoles, which in many villages are decorated and raised on Midsummer Night’s Eve.


Åland has many types of natural environment, ranging from barren skerries to lush wooded meadows and dense pine forests.
Åland has a great variety of plant species. In spring flowers grow in abundance and there are many species of orchids, which thrive in the chalky soil.
Åland is also home to a large number of sea birds, who breed here. The spring shooting season is a treasured tradition in Åland and is now seen as an integral part of the Islands’ cultural heritage. 
The eutrophication of the Baltic is evident in many ways in Åland, which is surrounded by water, and cutting marine pollution is therefore a key priority.

Ålandic symbols

In 1954 Åland got its own flag: a red and yellow cross on a blue background. 
In 1978 the new buildings of the Åland Government and Legislative Assembly were opened in Mariehamn. 
In 1984 Åland issued its first stamps and in 1993 the Åland Post became a separate postal administration. Each year, 10–15 new stamps are issued.
Åland’s coat of arms represents a deer on a blue background, and the regional flower, another emblem, is the cowslip, which is common in spring.

Åland in Europe

On 1 January 1995 Åland became a member of the EU. This was preceeded by a regional referendum in which 74 per cent voted Yes. The Legislative Assembly then gave its consent to the accession. 
In its membership negotiations, Finland managed to secure a number of special exemptions for Åland. These are laid down in the “Åland Protocol,” are aimed at safeguarding Åland’s autonomy and sources of livelihood. The requirement of the right of domicile for the ownership of land and conduct of business will continue to apply. Åland will also remain outside the EU’s fiscal union, and the Union’s directives on indirect taxation will not apply in Åland. These exemptions were necessary to safeguard the future of Åland’s ferry industry, and with that the communications to and from the islands.
Åland has one representative in the Committee of the Regions and a counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Finland to the EU in Brussels.

Interreg IIIA – Archipelago

The Åland archipelago consists of more than 6,500 isles and skerries. It forms the central part of a more extended archipelago stretching from Sweden to Finland. 
The political objective of ensuring a viable archipelagic community is partly supported by Interreg IIIA, an EU programme aimed at ensuring a viable economy in the archipelago. Preserving the natural and cultural environment of the archipelago are other important objectives. 
A pilot project under Interreg Skärgård is “Taste of the Archipelago”, a successful partnership among restaurants, food producers and craftsmen. 
The Structural Funds programmes Objective 2 and Objective 3 as well as Interreg IIIB Baltic Sea Region provide further opportunities of support for development initiatives.

Demilitarisation and neutralization

In 1809 Finland and Åland became a part of the Russian Empire. The Russians soon started to build a new fortress on the Islands, Bomarsund. In the Crimean War (1853–56) British and French troops laid siege to Bomarsund, and the Russians were eventually forced to capitulate. 
At the peace negotiations held in Paris in 1856 Russia agreed to a request made by Sweden that the Islands should not be fortified. Åland has remained a demilitarised territory ever since and is often referred to as the “Islands of Peace”. There is no military presence in Åland and Ålandic youths are exempt from national service. 
In 1921 an international convention entered into force which regulates the neutralization of Åland and confirms the demilitarised status of the Islands.

Facts about Åland

Population 1.1.2021: 30,129 of which 11,705 live in Mariehamn, Åland’s only town.
Municipalities: Åland has 15 municipalities and one town. Sottunga, which has a population of 91, is the smallest municipality in Finland. 
Population density: 19,2 people/km2
Total area: 6,784 km2, of which 1,527 km2 is land
Highest point above the sea: Orrdals klint 128,8 metres
Average daily temperature: +15.6°C in July, -4.5°C in February
Geographical location:
Landpoint furthest north 60°39,3'

Landpoint furthest south 59°30,2'

Landpoint furthest east 21°19,6'

Landpoint furthest west 19°08,2'
Currency: Euro
Language: Swedish
Figures from Statistical Yearbook of Åland 2020