EFA MEPs support Ålands getting a seat in the European Parliament
Finland will have one more seat for the next European term, which provides a great opportunity to fulfill this historical promise to the Swedish-speaking islands
Finland will gain a new seat in the European Parliament for the 2024-2029 term. This provides an opportunity for the Finnish government to make good on an old promise: to deliver a reserved seat for the Åland Islands. On Wednesday, during the Strasbourg plenary week in the EU, three MEPs of the European Free Alliance stood up for Åland’s right to representation and urged the Finnish government not to neglect it.
The European Parliament has just approved a new distribution of seats in the chamber for the next term. Under this plan, 12 EU member states, including Finland, will receive additional seats, bringing the total number of MEPs to 720. The intervention of EFA MEPs proves that this is not only an issue for Åland or Finland, but a matter of the principle of self-determination and democracy. The EU must hear all its voices and give all its citizens appropriate representation. EFA stands with its member party Ålands Framtid and supports their demand for a real voice for Åland in the EP.
An historical promise
When Finland joined the EU in 1995, the Åland Islands were required to give up some powers that until then had been decided autonomously by the self-governing territory. But in return, Åland did not receive any direct voice in the European institutions. In effect, this meant that the islands lost sovereignty that they are entitled to under the terms of the Autonomy Act of 1920. Furthermore, most debates in the Finnish institutions relating to EU matters are conducted only in Finnish, leaving the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands out of the loop.
Ever since then, Åland representatives, including EFA member party Ålands Framtid, have been calling for a formal place for Åland in the EU institutions, so that the islands’ voice can be heard in the European Parliament directly. But the last time the EP’s seat distribution was revised, in 2018, a majority of Finnish lawmakers turned down the proposal to grant a dedicated seat to Åland. The current opportunity to correct that mistake must not be missed.
Seats for special communities
Dedicated seats for communities or territories with a special character are not an unknown feature in the European Parliament. The German-speaking community of Belgium has a reserved seat to guarantee its voice despite its small size. The decisions on how to distribute a member state’s seats are a matter for each member state to decide. There is no practical or legal barrier to an Ålandic seat in the EP; the only thing standing in its way is the hesitation of the Finnish government and the parliament in Helsinki. They must respect Åland’s democratic right.