There is every chance that Åland’s provincial parliament, the lagting, could vote to reject the EU’s Lisbon Treaty (the replacement for the previously proposed European constitution) causing a constitutional dilemma for Finland. Finland’s parliament, the riksdag (or eduskunta), will almost certainly say yes to the treaty when it comes up for handling there.
Today, there are 10 members of the lagting who have said they will vote no. If 11 should vote against, it would fall. Sceptism towards the European Union has increased in recent times on Åland. Åland wants its own member of the European parliament and the right to speak for itself in the European courts. Mariehamn is also irritated by the EU’s decision to forbid snus sales on the islands and on Åland-flagged ferries (a decision made even worse by the fact it originally arrived in only Finnish and French).
If Åland does vote no, it will give Finland three options to continue:
- Finland can negotiate with Brussels to allow Åland to exit the EU. This would put Åland in a similar position to the Faroe Islands and Greenland which are both Danish territories but outside EU.
- Finland can accept Åland’s decision and not ratify Lisbon – however, this would mean the treaty would not enter into force in the entirety of the union – which would be politically unacceptable to other member-states.
- Finland can negotiate with Åland to reconsider their no-vote. Doubtless, Åland would demand concessions – probably in the shape of their own MEP, something which Finland could deliver by creating a separate election district for just Åland in EU parliament elections. This would not go down well on the mainland though.
Ending up outside of the EU could also present disadvantages for Ålanders. They would probably have the right of freedom of movement (and especially residence and employment) restricted, both for themselves and their goods and capital.