Ålands Lagting – Parliament of Åland
THE AUTONOMOUS 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.
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. 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
- local laws
- economic autonomy
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.
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.