Briefly in English


THE AUTONOMOUS
PARLIAMENT OF ÅLAND

Autonomy gives the Ålandic people the opportunity
to make laws about their own internal affairs.
The Parliament of Åland is the elected parliament.

About the Parliament

Ålands Lagting – Parliament of Åland

Autonomy gives the people of Åland the right to make laws on their internal affairs and to decide on the budget for the region of Åland. The legislature of Åland is called “lagting”, the Parliament.

The autonomy of Åland is regulated in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland (also known as the Autonomy Act). It can be amended by the Finnish Parliament in constitutional order and only with the consent of the Parliament of Åland. Changes in the separation of powers between Åland and Finland in general require an agreement between both parties. The current Act on the Autonomy of Åland entered into force on 1 January 1993.

Wikipedia’s list of legislative assemblies

 

Committees and Bodies

The Autonomy Committee

The Autonomy Committee is an advisory body for the Parliament and the regional government on issues important to self-government and in matters concerning Åland’s external relations. The Committee also acts as a consultative body in matters concerning overall EU affairs.

The new Rules of Procedure have given the Autonomy Committee a clearer role as a coordinating body in international affairs. If members representing the Parliament participate in international activities, the representatives are appointed by the Autonomy Committee, which also decides on the organisation of contacts between such representatives and the Parliament and its bodies. This applies to, for example, the Parliament's participation in Baltic Sea parliamentary cooperation

The regional government submits an annual report which is handled by the Committee and which is then submitted to the Parliament. The report describes issues and question that the regional government considers to be important for self-government policy.

The Autonomy Committee consists of a chairperson and a minimum of four and a maximum of seven members elected by the Parliament.

Committees

The Parliament has three permanent special committees:

  • The Legal and Cultural Committee
  • The Finance and Economic Affairs Committee
  • The Social and Environmental Committee

Most of the matters in the Parliament are prepared in one of the special committees, all of which handle one or more areas of affairs. The special committees consist of seven members.

International agreements proposed to take effect in Åland are prepared in the committees to whose area of responsibility the matter belongs.

The Legal and Cultural Committee

The Committee prepares the bills relating

  • to the autonomy of Åland

  • to regional and municipal administration

  • to order and security
  • to electoral and civil service legislation
  • to education, culture, and sport
  • to media

The Finance and Economic Affairs Committee

The Finance and Economic Affairs Committee prepares

  • the regional government’s budget proposal
  • budget motions
  • audit reports submitted to the Parliament
  • requests for additional appropriations
  • the regional share system and matters relating to the service collective agreement

The committee also prepares legislative matters relating to:

  • budgetary and audit matters
  • industries and support for business
  • taxes and fees
  • construction, expropriation, and spatial planning
  • infrastructure.

​The committee also approves, on behalf of the Parliament, the regional government's service collective agreement.

The Social and Environmental Committee

The Social and Environmental Committee prepares legislative proposals on the following, among other things:

  • social issues and employment
  • health and medical care
  • rent and lease issues
  • nature and environmental issues
  • hunting and outdoor activities

The Review Committee

Finally, the Review Committee’s role is to ensure that the Parliament’s proceedings are in line with its decisions. The Review Committee has three members as well as deputy members. The Review Committee may delegate tasks in whole or in part to the Parliament Office. The Parliament may also decide to abolish the Review Committee. In that case, the adjustment is handled by the Parliament Office.

You can find out more information about how legislative process works in a situation like this.

Presidium

The Presidium of the Parliament consists of the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers. The Speakers are elected for one working year at a time.

The Speaker is in charge of the work in the Chamber but is not allowed to take part in the debate. In the absence of the Speaker, the business in the Chamber is chaired by one of the Deputy Speakers. The Deputy Speakers are not prevented from taking part in the discussion other than during the time they themselves lead the floor in the Chamber.

The Speakers' Conference

The Speakers' Conference consists of the Presidium, the chairpersons of the standing committees, and one member from each of the legislative groups who would otherwise not be represented in the Speakers’ Conference.

The Conference handles questions about the working methods and procedural matters of the Parliament. The Speakers’ Conference also decides on the schedule for the Parliament’s work.

The Parliament Office Commission

The Parliament Office Commission consists of the Presidium and two members appointed by the Parliament.

The Parliament Office Commission deals with the financial management of the Parliament and matters relating to the Parliament Office.

 

Contact information for the Parliament Office

The address of the Parliament is P.O. Box 69, AX-22101 MARIEHAMN, ÅLAND

Invoices are to be sent in PDF format to faktura@regeringen.ax, or mailed to the Parliament, address: P.O. Box 2050, AX-22101 MARIEHAMN, ÅLAND.

Business ID 0145076-7. Tax border number 5520-2.

The Parliament is an Office with nine employees assisting the Parliament. The Parliament Office is located in the Parliament House, on the upper floors.

Susanne Eriksson

 Director of the Parliament. +358 18 25 331, +358 457 523 0416, susanne.eriksson<at>lagtinget.ax

Secretary of the Chamber, The Legal and Cultural Committee, the Speakers’ Conference, the Parliament Office Committee and (partly) the Autonomy Committee.

Carina Strand

 Deputy Director of the Parliament. +358 18 25 472, +358 457 361 3923, carina.strand<at>lagtinget.ax

Secretary of the Autonomy Committee (EU Affairs), the Social and Environmental Committee, and the Review Committee.

Sten Eriksson

 Deputy Committee Secretary. +358 18 25 474, +358 457 344 5640, sten.eriksson<at>lagtinget.ax

Secretary of the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee, Åland Delegation to the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, and Åland Delegation to the Nordic Council.

Jessica Laaksonen

 Office Secretary. +358 18 25 332, +358 400 802 448, jessica.laaksonen<at>lagtinget.ax

Marina Eriksson

 Parliamentary Assistant. +358 18 25 334, +358 400 828 248, marina.eriksson<at>lagtinget.ax

Secretary of the Parliament’s Veterans’ Association r.f.

Marina Wikstrand-Andersson

 Protocol Secretary. +358 18 25 333, +358 457 382 8645, marina.wikstrand-andersson<at>lagtinget.ax

Victoria Lindblom

 Administrative Secretary. +358 18 25 353, +358 40 701 6234, victoria.lindblom<at>lagtinget.ax

 Hans-Erik Ramström

 Librarian. +358 18 25 354, biblioteket<at>lagtinget.ax

 

The Parliament Library

The Parliament Library is a specialist library focusing on social sciences and law. In addition to books on the autonomy of Åland, there are also books on autonomic regions, international law, administration, legislation, minorities, parliaments, politics, political science, the Nordic region, and the EU.

The library primarily serves the Parliament and the regional government, but it offers its services to others as much as possible.

Parts of our collections can be borrowed to be read at home. Reference literature can be studied on site. Please contact the library before visiting to make sure that a book is available for loan.

The books of the Parliament are catalogued in the Ålandic library database bibliotek.ax.

The librarian’s contact information

If you need to use the library at other times or in the absence of the librarian, please contact the Office Secretary or Information Assistant of the Parliament.

Opening hours: Monday - Thursday 8.30-14.30, Friday 9-14.

 

The working hours of the Parliament during the term

Terms

The Parliament is elected for a four-year term. The current Parliament has been elected for the term beginning from 4 November 2019 and ending on 31 October 2023, and is therefore often referred to as the Parliament of 2019–2023.

Working year

The Parliament’s working year usually begins in early November and ends at the end of October, unless the Parliament decides otherwise.

The working year is divided into different plenary periods, which were previously known as sessions. The Parliament meets in the Chamber during the plenary periods. However, the committees always meet when necessary, even when it is not a plenary period. The length of the plenary periods may vary depending on the number of matters at hand.

A working year is usually divided into the following periods, with the following approximate dates:

  • 1 November to 20 January (previously known as the Autumn Session)
  • 1 March to 30 April (previously known as the Spring Session)
  • 2 to 3 weeks at the end of May/the beginning of June
  • 2 to 3 weeks in early September (previously called the Closing Session).

Meeting times

The schedule of meetings during the parliamentary work periods (sessions) usually is as follows:

Monday: Group meetings, 12.30 Speakers’ Conference Chamber, 13.00 Plenary

Tuesday: Committee meetings

Wednesday: Group meetings, 13.00 Plenary

Thursday: Committee meetings

Friday: Autonomy Committee, Parliament Office Commission, Reserve Day for Plenary

 

Legislation on which the legislative work is based

Legislative order and the importance of the Rules of Procedure

It is important that there are clear and unambiguous rules for parliamentary work so that politicians can engage in the content of politics instead of discussing formalities.

The most important regulations for parliamentary work are the legislative order and the Rules of Procedure.

Legislative order

The legislative order contains the most important rules for how the Parliament is to work and about the Parliament’s organisation and activities. In order for there to be stability in the work, the threshold for changing the legislative order is high, so a qualified majority in the Parliament is required for all changes.

Preparatory work can be found in cases TMK 1/2014-2015 and LM 2/2010-2011.

Rules of procedure

The Rules of Procedure are the regulations that govern the daily activities of the Parliament, as the more detailed rules for legislative work are contained in the Rules of Procedure.

The Rules of Procedure are not a law, as such, but a decision that is taken as if it were a matter of a law. In other words, the Rules of Procedure undergo two deliberations in the Parliament and they are published in the Statutes of Åland (Ålands författningssamling). However, as it is formally a decision, it does not undergo any legislative control.

The Rules of Procedure include provisions on the legislative year, dissolutions and new elections, the Speakers and the Speakers’ Conference, the committees and other bodies, legislative matters, EU matters, the preparation of dossiers, the deliberation of matters and cases in Parliament, the legislative documents, the administration of the Parliament, elections in the Parliament as well as special provisions and provisions on the entry into force.

Preparatory work can be found in cases TMK 2/2014-2015 and TMK 2/2017-2018

 

Tasks of the Parliament

Lawmaking

The most important tasks of the Parliament include lawmaking for the region.

What can the Parliament legislate on?

Through the Autonomy Act, the legislative power has been transferred from the Finnish Parliament to the Parliament in the following areas, among other things:

  • education, culture and the preservation of ancient monuments
  • health and medical care
  • social issues
  • promotion of industry
  • environmental protection
  • municipalities
  • police
  • postal communications
  • radio and TV
  • traffic within Åland

It can be said that in these areas Åland almost functions much like an independent state, with its own legislation and administrative apparatus.

In the course of a case, you can read more about how legislation is done and about the jurisdiction control of the regional laws.

Legislative areas belonging to the Finnish Parliament

In areas where the Parliament cannot legislate, the laws adopted by the Finnish Parliament apply in the same way in Åland as in the rest of the country.

Examples of such areas are:

  • Foreign Service
  • most civil and criminal law
  • courts
  • customs and coinage
  • state taxation

In order to protect the interests of the Ålandic people in these areas, Åland has a representative in the Finnish Parliament. The Ålandic Member of the Finnish Parliament is elected in the same way as other members of the Parliament in Finland. The Member of the Parliament does not represent the autonomous region, they represent the Ålandic people.

Adopting the budget for Åland

The second main task of the Parliament, alongside its legislative tasks, is to decide on the regional budget.

By 1 November, the Regional Government will submit a proposal for the next year's budget to the Parliament, which will first have a long discussion on the proposal before it is submitted to the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee for preparation. The committee then submits a report to the Parliament, which usually gavels the budget the week before Christmas.

Revenue from the budget

Own income

The revenue from the regional budget consists of 20 per cent of income from the region's own activities in various areas. Important revenue generating activities include organisations such as PAF and Posten. Income also includes patient fees within ÅHS, and fees for travel on the archipelago’s ferries, television permits, inspections at the motor vehicle agency, and museum revenues, for example. Other income consists of a transfer from the pension fund to cover part of the pension expenses and EU support.

Reimbursement from the state

Most of the revenue in the regional budget consists of a repayment of the money collected by the state in Åland. As in the rest of the country, the state collects taxes, duties, and fees on Åland, and the region is compensated in return for expenses taken over from the state due to autonomy. The compensation takes place by making an appropriation in the state budget available to the Parliament. The appropriation (settlement amount) represents a lump sum of 0,45 per cent of the revenue in the state accounts, with the exception of government loans.

If the Ålandic people are such good taxpayers that the income tax paid on Åland exceeds 0.5 per cent of the corresponding tax in Finland, the excess amounts will be credited to the region. This tax credit is commonly referred to as “diligence” (flitpeng).

The Parliament can also apply for additional appropriations for exceptionally large one-off expenditures that cannot reasonably be financed from the region's regular budget. However, such additional appropriations are relatively rare. Examples of projects that have been implemented with the help of these extra grants include the direct current connection between Åland and Finland.

The Åland Delegation plays an important role in the reimbursement of state funds to Åland.

Expenditure

Based on the proposal of the regional government, the Parliament decides how the expenditure in the budget is to be distributed year to year. The major areas of expenditure include social and health care, as well as education and traffic.

The regional budget for the current year is available here.

Appointing the Head of Government (Lantråd) and approving the government program

Formation of the government

Government negotiations

Immediately after the general election, sometimes already on election night, the parliamentary groups begin the negotiations on the formation of a regional government. There are no formalised rules for under whose leadership the negotiations are to be conducted, but in practice the negotiations are primarily conducted under the leadership of the winning party. The winning party usually refers to the largest party. If it is unclear which party is the largest, the number of votes and the number of increased seats are given importance in determining this.

Choosing the Head of Government (Lantråd)

A new Speaker will be elected at the opening of the new Parliament. The Speaker’s task is to propose who should be appointed as the Lantråd. In order to be able to submit a proposal that has the potential to win sufficient support, the Speaker must first survey the legislative groups, but this survey is informal.

The Speaker then announces before the Parliament the candidate for the position, after which the Parliament elects the Lantråd. If the candidate is not elected, the Speaker proposes a new candidate, and if they do not succeed in being elected, an open election will be held in the Parliament. If the proposed candidate has received more than half of the votes cast, the person proposed by the Speaker is elected as the Lantråd. It is therefore possible to form a minority government.

Appointing the ministers

When the Parliament has elected the Lantråd, they must inform the Speaker of who are proposed to be the ministers in the new government. The Speaker then appoints the ministers and the new regional government can give its oath of office and take office with the resignation of the old regional government.

The new regional government immediately prepares its governing programme, which is submitted to the Parliament in the form of a communication. The communication is debated in the Parliament and then a decision is taken on the approval of the government's programme. This vote requires more than half of the votes to be cast for approval. If the votes for approval do not reach this threshold, measures must be taken to begin the process of re-forming the regional government.

Changing ministers

If the composition of theregional government later changes significantly, the same procedure shall be followed as in the formation of a new regional government. The Lantråd can replace a minister without the active involvement of the Parliament. However, the possibility of censure of the Lantråd always exists in such a situation. If more than one minister is replaced, a notice shall be given to the Parliament in the same manner as when a new regional government is appointed, after which a vote shall be taken on the notice of the change of ministers.

Monitoring the regional government

In order for the Parliament to have the opportunity to exercise control over the regional government that operates on the basis of its trust, there are a number of political control instruments. As a rule, it is the opposition that uses the control instruments of the Parliament.

Motion of censure

The motion of censure is the most serious instrument of control available to the Parliament.

The Parliament's distrust can only be directed at the Lantråd, who must always ensure that there is sufficient confidence in the entire regional government. If the Parliament decides on censure, the entire regional government will be dissolved and a new one will be appointed. If the Parliament has declared by an absolute majority (at least 16 votes) that the regional government or one of its members lack the confidence of the Parliament, a new regional government shall be appointed.

Questions

A question addressed to the regional government can be asked in writing by at least five members of the Parliament together. Within ten days after a question has been presented to the Parliament, the regional government shall either submit a written answer or announce that no answer will be given. When the answer or message has been given, there will be a debate in the Parliament which can then decide on a so-called petition to the Parliament in the matter.

Written question

Each member of the Parliament has the right to ask a brief written question addressed to the regional government. The Lantråd or a minister in the regional government must give a short written or oral answer within 10 days. The author of the question may then give a maximum of two short speeches that agree with the answer, after which the person who gave the answer has the right to speak. If the regional government has announced that it does not intend to respond, no discussion is allowed.

Question time

The Speakers’ Conference may decide to organise a question time in the Parliament to deal with one or more specific issues. At question time, the Lantråd or a minister will first give a speech, after which the discussion in the Parliament will be free. The Parliament does not take a decision on such a matter that has been dealt with in a question time. Provisions on question time can be found in the Rules of Procedure and in the Speakers’ Conference’s instructions for question time.

Reports

The regional government must annually issue an annual report containing a financial statement and an activity report. In addition, the regional auditor annually submits a report with the results of the efficiency audit to the Parliament. During the financial year, the regional auditor may also submit audit reports relating to efficiency audits to the Parliament.

Both reports are discussed in the committees that can comment on them or suggest that a call be made to the regional government to take action.

Approving international agreements

Foreign policy falls within the competence of the kingdom and Åland is therefore not in a position to conclude any international agreements.

However, this does not mean that Åland is completely without influence in international affairs. If an international agreement entered into by Finland contains a provision that is in conflict with the Autonomy Act, or if the agreement contains a provision in a matter that falls within the region’s area of competence, approval by the Parliament is required for the provision to come into force in Åland.

In practice, the President of Finland requests the approval of the Parliament to international agreements. Every year, about twenty such petitions are submitted to the Parliament, and the agreements often contain uncontroversial things, such as rules for avoiding double taxation or agreements on social security. In such cases, the approval of the Parliament is more or less routinely given.

Sometimes, however, the legislative veto right over international agreements is of greater importance. For example, Finland's accession to the EU, which required approval from the Parliament, which in practice meant that the Parliament could choose whether Åland should follow Finland into the EU or not.

Participating in international cooperation

Nordic Council

Åland has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1970. The Parliament appoints two of the Council's 87 members in total. Only those who are members of the Parliament can be elected members of the Nordic Council. The Ålandic members, together with the representatives of the regional government in the council, form the Åland statutory delegation.

The regional government also participates in the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

When Åland became a member of the Nordic Council, the Council's competence largely coincided with the competence of the region. The area of Nordic co-operation has expanded over the years and now includes, for example, security policy and co-operation in relation to the neighbouring areas of the Nordic region. In this way, the Council has become something of a foreign policy platform for Åland.

Åland delegation to the Nordic Council.

BSPC – The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference

The BSPC was established in 1991 as a forum where the various parliaments of the Baltic Sea Region meet in a dialogue on current political issues affecting the region. The Parliament appoints the delegation to the BSPC and the Chairperson of the Delegation, who also represents the Parliament in the standing committee.

The BSPC consists of parliamentarians from eleven national parliaments, eleven regional parliaments, and five parliamentary organisations from the Baltic Sea Region. BSPC is a forum where both EU countries and countries outside the Union can come together to participate in the political dialogue on issues of interest to the region. In addition, the conference contributes to an increased exchange of information and networking between parliamentarians from all Baltic Sea countries. The conference is held once a year.

The permanent political body of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference is the Standing Committee, whose task is to decide on various strategic issues concerning the organisation's objectives, priorities, working methods, and administration. Åland has a member in the Standing Committee. It is the Standing Committee which, together with the host country, plans and organises the annual conference. The Committee meets at least four times a year and each parliament is represented by one member.

In addition to the Standing Committee, the organisation consists of the Secretariat, one or more working groups, and a number of observers and rapporteurs who focus on various current issues.

The BSPC website.

The Parliament and the EU

CALRE (Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies) — Meeting of Speakers of the legislative regions of the EU

CALRE is the conference of the Speakers of the 74 regional legislative parliaments of the European Union. The members represent regions in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Italy, the Portuguese regions of the Azores and Madeira, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom and Åland Islands in Finland. The regions have many similar problems and therefore have common interests in the EU. Åland is represented in CALRE by the Speaker.

CALRE has an annual plenary session, which summarises, among other things, common positions on topical issues in a declaration adopted by the plenary session. Working groups with different themes are set up at the same time and a chairperson of the respective working group is appointed from among the Speakers. The work is followed up during the year by the Standing Committee of CALRE, which meets 3 to 4 times during the year and where the Parliament of Åland is always represented. Each working group prepares a report proposing measures presented at the plenary session.

More information about CALRE.

Similar cooperation between the legislative regions is called RegLeg.

 

Types of cases

Legislative proposals and motions

Budget proposals and motions

Suggestions and questions

Statements and reports

Other suggestions and questions

Progress of a Case

Who can bring a case to the Parliament

The work in the legislative process is very formalised. It is not possible for just anyone to bring a case to the Parliament. According to the rules, a case can be brought only by

  • the President of the Republic
  • the regional government
  • the members of the Parliament themselves
  • the citizens through a citizens' initiative

Different types of cases

Proposal by the regional government

The regional government is the most important "client" of the Parliament. The regional government may raise suggestions that the Parliament will pass a regional law. There are no time limits for when bills can be raised.

The regional government may also bring budget proposals that apply:

  • proposals for appropriations in the regional budget
  • questions about regional guarantees
  • initiatives to the Finnish Parliament
  • applications for additional appropriations

The regional government submits approximately 50 proposals per year to the Parliament.

The regional government has the officials in the administration to help it prepare the cases.

Presidential petitions

The President of the Republic may submit petitions (proposals) to the Parliament.

It is the president who submits amendments to the Autonomy Act to the Parliament for consent.

According to the Autonomy Act, the Parliament must give its consent to laws that bring international treaties into force if the international treaties concern the jurisdiction of the region. Otherwise, the international agreements or treaties will not apply in Åland.

The most common international treaties to which the Parliament gives its consent, concern double taxation and benefits in the field of social and health care, but the Parliament's consent was also required with regard to accession to the EU.

Proposals of the Speakers’ Conference

The Parliament's own body, the Speakers Conference, can raise proposals in the Parliament. The proposal of the Speakers’ Conference concerns internal legislative issues.

Motions

The Parliament members' own proposals are called motions. Motions must be in writing and they can be signed by one or more members.

Motions are usually raised by members who are in opposition because the members who belong to the governing parties can influence the government directly.

There are three types of motions:

  • legislative motions
  • budget motions
  • provisional motions

The motions that contain a ready-formulated draft bill are called legislative motions. Legislative motions can be raised at any time during the time when the Parliament is assembled.

Budget motions contain proposals for appropriations in the regional budget. Budget motions may be raised no later than 12.00 on the eleventh day after the budget proposal has been included for information on the Parliament's agenda.  A budget motion due to a proposal for a supplementary budget or a supplementary budget proposal must be submitted no later than 12.00 on the fourth day after the proposal has been placed on the agenda for information.

Provisional motions contain proposals that the Parliament should request that , for example, the regional government must take a certain measure. In addition to the regional government, such a request may be addressed to the Finnish Parliament, the Speakers’ Conference, or the Autonomy Committee.

Communications

The regional government may also issue a notification to the Parliament on such matters as the regional government considers that the Parliament should be informed of and comment on. The notices do not contain a direct proposal for action by the Parliament. Often the communication are about major reforms that are still at the planning stage.

Reports

The Parliament handles a number of reports as well. According to the law,

will annually report to the Parliament about their activities. In addition, the regional auditor shall provide a report of the annual audit and the efficiency audit.

 

Citizens' initiative

A thousand citizens can together submit a citizens' initiative to the Parliament. The initiative must be submitted in writing to the Parliament Office and it must contain a proposal in the form of a legal text or a proposal on what legislative measures should be taken. Issues of various kinds may not be included in one and the same initiative. The initiative must include a short justification.

The initiative must state who are the representative and deputy representative of the initiative. The representative shall also be the first signatory of the initiative. At the same time as the signing, the representative must notify the Parliament Office in writing that the collection of names for the citizens' initiative has begun. The collection of names may last a maximum of four months.

In the initiative, the initiators must ensure that, according to the electoral register authority's voting rights register, they were entitled to vote in the most recent parliamentary election. Under the persons' own signatures, their name, title, profession or occupation, and address must be clearly noted. The signatures must be clearly numbered.

When collecting signatures, the rules on freedom of choice in respect of parliamentary elections shall apply.

The Parliament is obliged to consider a citizens' initiative without delay if it has been done as provided for in the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament. Initiatives that contain proposals in the form of a legal text shall be dealt with in the legislative order in the same manner as a legislative motion proposing a regional law. Initiatives that contain proposals for legislative measures to be taken shall be dealt with in a single treatment in the same way as a provisional motion.

The Parliament's decision, in connection with a citizens' initiative, must be communicated in writing to the representative.

Thinking of starting a citizens' initiative?

If you are planning an initiative, please contact the Parliament Office in good time!

Here are forms that can be used in a citizens' initiative so that all information is included.

Download the citizens' initiative notification form

Download the petition form for citizens' initiatives

Contact information for the Parliament Office

How the cases are handled in the Parliament

Most of the matters in the Parliament are dealt with both in the Chamber and in a committee.

All legislative matters are dealt with only in the Chamber, where members of the Parliament have the opportunity to discuss. This debate is called a referendum debate. Thereafter, virtually all matters, except certain communications, are referred to or transmitted in accordance with the proposals of the Speakers’ Conference to a committee for consideration. The regional government's bills and budgets, the presidential petitions, the members' motions, and citizens' initiatives must always be considered by a committee before they can be considered in the Chamber.

During committee deliberations, the committees have the opportunity to consult experts. The committee's deliberation takes place behind closed doors, so the deliberation is not public.

When the deliberation in a committee is complete, the committee formulates its decision in a report which is then considered in the Chamber. The committees' reports are to be regarded as proposals to the Parliament, since all final decisions are made in the Chamber.

If the matter concerns a bill or an international treaty, the decision shall be taken during two different deliberations in the chamber.

A general discussion is allowed at the first deliberation. When the discussion is over, a decision is made about the proposal. For example, if it is a question of a regional law, the Parliament makes a decision on what it will be like.

Decisions in matters concerning international treaties and in legal matters are taken at a second deliberation, as the Parliament can only take a position on approving the proposal as it was formulated in the first deliberation or rejecting it completely.

If the matter concerns other than legal matters or international treaties, the decision is taken directly on the basis of a report by a special committee. This is called a single deliberation.

Decision in the Parliament

As a decision of the Parliament, the majority's opinion usually applies. In the event of an equal vote, the Speaker’s vote will be the deciding vote, except in the case of a lottery.

However, a qualified majority (two thirds of the votes cast) is required for the Autonomy Act, the Land Acquisition Act, the Legislative Order, the Regional Act on the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections, and the Regional Act on the Regional Government of Åland.

The legislative matters that have not been finalised when the Parliament is dissolved in connection with elections, expire.

Legislative control

When the Parliament has decided to adopt a regional law, the decision shall be sent to the President of the Republic for verification of competence. Before the case is presented to the President, the Åland Delegation must issue a statement, and in some cases the Supreme Court must do so as well.

The Åland Delegation is a type of arbitration body consisting of five members, two of whom are appointed by the government and two by the Parliament. The governor acts as the chairperson of the Delegation. In addition to exercising legislative control, the Åland delegation has certain tasks regarding the financial settlement between the state and the region.

The President has a veto right over the laws of Åland if they

1 mean an overshoot of the region's area of competence or

2 violate the external or internal security of the state.

So the President cannot order a law to lapse in whole or in part for political reasons. Before the President vetoes the law, the Supreme Court’s opinion must also be sought. Under the Autonomy Act, the President has four months to make their decision. Only then can the regional government issue the law so that it can enter into force.

 

Parliamentary Elections

General information about the elections

The members of the Parliament are appointed by means of immediate and secret ballots where the right to vote is universal and equal for all those entitled to vote.

According to the Autonomy Act, the Parliament has legislative powers in relation to elections to the Parliament. The provisions on the parliamentary elections can be found in Elections Act for Åland (ÅFS 2019:45). 

You can read more about the elections here 

The latest elections

The last legislative elections were held on 20 October 2019. After the election, eight groups are represented in the Parliament. You can read more about the Parliament elections here.

Statistics about the elections are available on the ÅSUB website.

Other elections

Simultaneously with the parliamentary elections, the municipal elections in the 16 Ålandic municipalities are held. When it comes to elections to the Finnish Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as to the presidential elections, the Ålandic people go to the polls at the same time as the rest of the country.

Electoral participation in elections held in Åland since 1979

Figures and data in Excel format are available from ÅSUB.

 

Scholarships

On 9 June 1997, the Parliament set up a fund to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Autonomy.

Purpose

The purpose of the Jubilee Fund is to support education and research at postgraduate level by annually awarding individual scholarships for studies or scientific research at post-graduate level to recipients who are resident in the region or whose studies or research are of particular interest to the region.

Competition

The Parliament Office Commission of the Parliament of Åland announces annually, through advertisements in the local newspapers and through publication in the Aurora funding database for science and art, when the applications for scholarships must be submitted to the Parliament Office.

Distribution ceremony

A solemn distribution ceremony is traditionally arranged every year on 9 June in connection with the Parliament's celebration of the Autonomy Day.

Current scholarships are listed in our news

For more information, please contact Susanne Eriksson, Director of the Parliament, tel: +358 (0)18 25331

Research of particular interest to the region

Below are examples of research that may be of particular interest to the region. This list is a sketch of ideas drawn up on the basis of proposals received from politicians and officials. It has not been the subject of treatment and decision-making by any legislative body:

  • Different types of comparative studies between the world's different autonomies with a focus on how they work in practice and what room for manoeuvre the mother states give them. Particularly interesting examples here could be autonomous systems where one interacts with the motherland in an inoffensive and positive way, thus a win-win situation.
  • Analyses and comparative studies of how small-scale economies perform compared to larger economies, and how to achieve a successful economy and a good standard of living despite smallness of the population and a small-scale business life.
  • Research on what needs to be changed and adapted in the region in the event that Åland were to be reunited – while maintaining autonomy – with Sweden.
  • Everything linked to Åland's status (autonomy, demilitarisation/neutralisation, the special components within the system, such as local law/land acquisition, the EU dimension, including the historical aspects).
  • Population of Åland (migration movements in both directions and their socio-economic consequences).
  • Common diseases in Åland (such as haemophilia, genetic side of the diseases, and everything connected to ticks and their "host animals").
  • Environmental research that has a scope for Åland, especially on the water issues.
  • Coupling self-government and economics.
  • Comparative studies with other autonomies.
  • Åland as a church country, sports country.
  • An inquiry into the treaty law and other legal alternatives to enable the status quo regarding demilitarisation and neutralisation in the event of future NATO membership.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of introducing own country code for telephone communications.
  • Problems caused by the use of the ax code and suggestions for possible measures.

The communication on Policy for Åland's demilitarisation and neutralisation mentions that the following areas could be investigated:

  • Relationship of paramilitary forces with demilitarisation and neutralisation.
  • Interpretation of Article 4b of the 1921 Convention with regard to terrorist attacks.
  • How can the region's influence over the demilitarisation conventions be secured – through an amendment to the Autonomy Act or in another way.

 

Background on the Autonomy

As far as is known, the Ålandic people have spoken Swedish and had a culture that was similar to the Swedish. Åland also belonged to the Swedish Empire, occasionally with a fairly independent administration, until the war 1808–1809 when Sweden was forced to cede Finland and Åland to Russia. Åland thus became part of the Grand Duchy of Finland.

When the Russian Empire began to fall apart, a secret consultation was held in August 1917 between representatives of all municipalities in Åland. The event was held at Åland Folkhögskolan (Åland Folk High School). At the meeting, it was decided to request reunification with the old motherland, Sweden. This wish was conveyed by representatives of Åland to the Swedish king and government. The request was supported, among other things, by a mass address that had been signed by the overwhelming majority of the adult resident population.

In December 1917, Finland declared itself an independent republic on the basis of the same principle of the peoples' right to self-determination as the Ålandic people invoked in support of reunification with Sweden. From the Finnish side, however, they were not prepared to meet the demands of the Ålandic people for reunification, but instead wanted to give them a certain form of internal self-government. In 1920, the Finnish Parliament therefore passed an Autonomy Act which the Ålandic people did not accept.

Due to the international nature of the Åland question, the matter was referred to the newly formed League of Nations (NF). In June 1921, the Council of the League of Nations decided on a compromise in which none of the three parties to the conflict, Finland, Sweden and Åland, were left without a win.

Finland gained sovereignty over the Åland Islands but must commit to guaranteeing the Ålandic people their Swedish language, culture, local customs and the self-government system offered by Finland in 1920. The decision was supplemented by an agreement between Finland and Sweden on how the guarantees would be implemented. At the same time, the League of Nations decided that an agreement on Åland's demilitarisation and neutralisation would be concluded so that Åland would not pose a military threat to Sweden in the future.

After the Autonomy Act of 1920 had been supplemented with provisions on land acquisition and voting rights, the first regional government election was held in 1922. The Regional Council, which was the Parliament's former name, met for its first plenary session on 9 June, the day that is now celebrated as the Autonomy Day of Åland. The Autonomy Act has since been completely revised twice, in 1951 and in 1993.

 

Autonomy Today

Ålands Lagting – Parliament of Åland

Autonomy gives the Ålandic people the right to legislate on their internal affairs and to exercise budgetary power. The legislature of Åland is called “Lagting”, the Parliament. The Parliament appoints the regional government, which is the government of Åland.

The autonomy of Åland is regulated in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland. The Autonomy Act can be amended by the Finnish Parliament in a constitutional order, and all amendments require the consent of the Parliament of Åland. Changes in the separation of powers between Åland and Finland in general require an agreement between both parties. The current Autonomy Act, which is the third in order, entered into force on 1 January 1993.

The Autonomy Act provides, among other things, for:

  • Parliament and legislative competence
  • the regional government
  • language
  • local laws
  • economic autonomy

In which areas can the Parliament enact laws?

The Autonomy Act lists the areas where the Parliament of Åland has the right to legislate. The most important sectors are:

  • education, culture and the preservation of ancient monuments
  • health and medical care, environment
  • promotion of industry
  • internal traffic
  • municipal administration
  • police
  • postal communications
  • radio and TV

Åland functions almost as an independent state with its own legislation and administration in these areas.

Which areas belong to the national authorities?

In areas where the Parliament does not have legislative powers, the laws of Finland apply in the same way as in the rest of the country.

Examples of such areas are:

  • Foreign Service
  • most civil and criminal law
  • courts
  • customs services
  • state taxation

In order for Åland's interests to be safeguarded in areas where the region does not have legislative competence, Åland has a representative in the Finnish Parliament. The Ålandic Member of the Finnish Parliament is elected in the same way as other members of the Parliament in Finland.

How is the Parliament elected?

The 30-member Parliament is elected every four years by secret and proportional elections. The voting age is 18 years. Åland's local law is a prerequisite for voting rights and eligibility.

The political map

The political groups in Åland are independent in relation to foreign parties, but can ideologically be compared with corresponding groups in the outside world. They can thus be said to be sister parties to their counterparts in Finland and Sweden.

Economic autonomy

Part of the self-government system is economic autonomy. In addition to legislative competence, the Autonomy Act also defines a system for financing autonomous expenditure.

The Parliament sets a budget for Åland annually. The revenues distributed through the budget are of various different kinds. The largest part, just over 70 per cent, consists of funds transferred from the state to Åland under the system defined in the Autonomy Act. These transfers consist of different parts. The most important for the current basic financing are the annual settlement amount and the annual tax settlement.

The settlement amount corresponds to a percentage, the so-called basis for settlement, of certain income in the central government accounts, the so-called settlement base. In addition, the amount is adjusted on the basis of how Åland's share of Finland's total population changes. According to the latest decision to amend the Autonomy Act, the basis for settlement is 0.45 per cent, but can now be changed by the Finnish Parliament in a simpler way than before, with the consent of the Parliament.

The tax settlement consists of certain state tax revenues paid from Åland. The tax revenues that are included in the tax settlement are mainly state acquisition and capital income tax as well as corporate taxes. These tax types are repaid to Åland in the same amount as they have been paid in from Åland and are therefore not included in the settlement base on which the settlement amount is based. If the sum of corporate and capital income taxes to be paid back to Åland is very low compared to what it would have been, if these tax types had instead been included in the settlement base, there is a mechanism that mitigates the negative economic consequences for Åland.

In addition to the amount of the settlement and the tax settlement, additional appropriations and contributions for exceptional events may be paid according to the examination.

Legislative control

The laws adopted by the Parliament are sent to the President of the Republic, who can veto if the Parliament has exceeded its legislative powers or if the law concerns Finland's external or internal security.

General information about demilitarisation and neutralisation

Åland is demilitarised, which means that the military is not allowed to stay on Åland and that the region is not allowed to be fortified. Åland is also neutralised, and must therefore be kept out of war events. 

When Åland was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1809, construction began on a large fortress in Bomarsund, on the eastern side of mainland Åland. During the Crimean War, the fortress was attacked and captured by troops from France and England. At the subsequent peace in Paris in 1856, Åland was demilitarised by a unilateral commitment on the part of Russia.

When the League of Nations decided on Åland's state affiliation in 1921, it was also decided that an international convention should be established. The Convention confirmed the demilitarisation of 1856, and at the same time neutralised Åland.

The 1921 Convention was signed by ten states. Russia is not a party to the Convention, but the Moscow Treaty on the Åland Islands in 1940 and the Peace Treaty in Paris in 1947 contain provisions on the demilitarisation of Åland; however, neutralisation is not mentioned. The conventions can be found in the Åland Cultural Foundation's publication on international agreements and documents concerning Åland.

Anyone who has a right of residence and who has moved to Åland before the age of 12 is exempt from conscription. However, demilitarisation is not the reason for the exemption from military service; the exemption is primarily a language protection.

 

More information about Åland

More detailed information about Åland can be found on the website of the Åland Island's government.

Act on the Autonomy of Åland
A translation of the act on the Autonomy of Åland can be found here.