Rapporten är en del i utredningen om EU-medlemskapets betydelse för Åland. 25 år av EU-erfarenheter har analyserats av Ålands fredsinstitut i samarbete med Ålands statistik- och utredningsbyrå (ÅSUB) på uppdrag av Ålands landskapsregering. Rapporten finns endast på engelska.
This report is a part of a project about the impact of EU membership on Åland. 25 years of EU experiences have been analysed by the Åland Islands Peace Institute in cooperation with Åland Statistics and Research (ÅSUB), commissioned by the Åland Government. The report is available only in English.
This report aims to enhance the understanding of Åland’s relationship to the European Union, by comparing its situation to that of two other sub-state entities, South Tyrol in Italy which is inside of the EU, and the Faroe Islands which are outside of the EU, although its core state – Denmark – is a member. The report is based on a previous report written in Swedish, discussing the ambitions, experiences, and strategies of Åland as a member of the EU, based on a review of official government documents supplemented with interviews. The studies of the Faroe Islands and South Tyrol are based on academic literature, as well as a small number of official documents and a small number of interviews. The report’s focus is Åland; its main aim is to draw conclusions relevant to Åland and the two other cases function as references.
In line with findings in previous research on EU and the regions, it was found that the EU affects all three regions, both the ones within it and the one outside of the Union, but that it affects them differently and in dissimilar ways. Furthermore, it can be argued that the EU has had both strengthening and weakening effects for all three regions, though the advantages and disadvantages they experience differ.
The core states of the three regions acceded to the EU at different times, and thus in different stages of the development of European integration and the regions’ own autonomy. Italy is one of the founding members of the EC, and South Tyrol has been included in the European integration project since its beginning, and without any special arrangements. The economy, the autonomy, and possibilities for regional cross border co-operation have developed within the framework of the European integration process. For Åland and the Faroe Islands, the prospect of EU membership appeared later in the European integration process. These entities both had the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of the integration project, and for both the issue of internal self-determination and economic interests were (and still are) important aspects to consider at accession.
For Åland, it is considered that the fact that Åland’s international status is included in Finland’s accession treaty has an important strengthening effect for the status of the Åland Islands. However, concerns have also been raised over a “leakage of competences” due to the EU, which has not been compensated for by direct influence in EU decision making institutions – most notably the European Parliament. At the same time, it is claimed that the EU membership has made Åland more dependent on Finland, that it is challenging to fulfil the legal requirements of the EU, and difficult to stay informed on upcoming legislation.
In South Tyrol, the discourse is somewhat different. Even if there is awareness of the risk of loss of competences and there is a perception that EU programmes are not designed for small entities, this is not presented as the major issue. Instead, the EU is described as an opportunity for strengthening autonomy, and for contacts and co-operation outside of the national arena. For South Tyrol, European integration has meant moving from the periphery of Italy to the center of Europe, and enhanced possibilities for cross-border co-operation, in particular with Austria – the kin-state of the German speakers in South Tyrol.
The Faroe Islands have continuously rejected EU membership to elude loss of control over fisheries. After Denmark acceded to the EU in 1973, the autonomy of the Faroe Islands has been strengthened and more competences have been transferred to the Faroes. According to informants, the fact that the Faroe Islands remained outside of the EU has contributed to this trend. However, even though the Faroe Islands are outside of the EU, they are affected by EU regulations in many ways, directly in the fields where bilateral treaties exist, and indirectly in arenas where policies of trading partners and Denmark are regulated by the EU.
Åland has access to the EU-institutions through its representative in Brussels, who has diplomatic status through Finland. South Tyrol on the other hand has representation in the European Parliament, something which the Åland Islands have long requested. It can be argued that participation in the EU, for Åland, is more institutionalized and embedded in state structures than in South Tyrol where participation is less institutionalized and more separate from the state. As a third country in relation to the EU, the Faroe Island’s access to the EU’s opportunity structures is restricted, instead it co-operates with the EU at a bilateral level.
It can be argued that EU membership is a spectrum, a continuum. It is not a question of either-or: fully in or fully out; fully independent or fully embedded – but a variety of parameters in a range. Even if it is formally not included in the EU, the Faroe Islands is still integrated to some extent. The Åland Islands have exceptions for features of its autonomy and economy which positions it mostly inside, but also partly outside, of the EU. Out of the three regions, it can be argued that South Tyrol is the most integrated, legally, politically, and mentally, with no legal exceptions and with a political goal to integrate more.