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Inhabitants: 27,500
Part of Finland and a member of the EU
Within the Schengen area
Language: Swedish
Currency: The official currency is the euro but Swedish crowns are accepted in most places.
Time: Eastern European Time
Total area: 6 787 sq km
A total of more than 6,500 islands of which 65 are inhabited.

 

About Åland
The Åland Islands or Åland is an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking region of Finland that consists of an archipelago lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. Collectively, the islands in the archipelago form the smallest region of Finland, constituting 0.49% of its land area and 0.50% of its population.

Åland comprises Fasta Åland (“Main Island”, on which 90% of the population resides) and a further 6,500 skerries and islands to its east. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometres (24 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland’s only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket, which it shares with Sweden.

Åland’s autonomous status means that those provincial powers normally exercised by representatives of the central Finnish government are largely exercised by its own government.

Most inhabitants have Swedish (the sole official language) as their first language: 90.2% in 2009, and 5.0% speak Finnish.

Etymology: Åland’s original name was in Proto-Norse language Ahvaland which means “Land of Water”. In Swedish, this first developed into Áland and eventually into Åland, literally “river land”—even though rivers are not a prominent feature of Åland’s geography. The Finnish name of the island, Ahvenanmaa, is seen to preserve another form of the old name. Another theory suggests that the Finnish Ahvenanmaa would be the original name of the archipelago, from which the Swedish Åland derives)

Work and live in Åland
Moving to Åland is no problem and has never been restricted by law. Even if the aim is to settle down permanently the obstacles is few. The special legislations around settling down are for protecting the Swedish-speaking Åland.

EU/EEA citizens have the right of free mobility within the European Economic Area. A precondition for free movement is having sufficient means of subsistence. A non-EU/EEA citizen need a residence permit to live and work on Åland. For more information, contact the State unit on Åland and the Åland Police Department.

State unit on Åland
Åland Police Department

Geography of Åland
The Åland Islands occupy a position of strategic importance, as they command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near the Gulf of Finland.

The Åland archipelago consists of nearly three hundred habitable islands, of which about eighty are inhabited; the remainder are merely some 6,000 skerries and desolate rocks. The archipelago is connected to Åboland archipelago in the east (Finnish: Turunmaan saaristo, Swedish: Åbolands skärgård) — the archipelago adjacent to the southwest coast of Finland. Together they form the Archipelago Sea. To West from Åland is Sea of Åland and to North the Bothnian Sea.

The surface of the islands is generally rocky and the soil, thin. There are several harbours.

The islands’ landmass occupies a total area of 1,527 square kilometres (590 sq mi). Ninety per cent of the population live on Fasta Åland (the Main Island), which is also the site of the capital town of Mariehamn. Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago, extending over 1,010 square kilometres, more than 66% of the province’s land area. It measures approximately 47 kilometres (29 mi) from north to south and 34 kilometres (21 mi) from east to west.

During the Åland Crisis, the parties sought support from different maps of the islands. On the Swedish map, the most densely populated main island dominated, and many skerries were left out. On the Finnish map, a lot of smaller islands or skerries were, for technical reasons, given a slightly exaggerated size. The Swedish map made the islands appear to be closer to the mainland of Sweden than to Finland; the Finnish map stressed the continuity of the archipelago between the main island and mainland Finland, while a greater gap appeared between the islands and the archipelago on the Swedish side. Although both Finns and Swedes of course argued for their respective interpretations, in retrospect it is hard to say that one is more correct than the other. One consequence is the oft-repeated number of “over 6,000” skerries that was given authority by the outcome of the arbitration.

Economy of Åland
Åland’s economy is heavily dominated by shipping, trade and tourism. Shipping represents about 40% of the economy, with several international carriers owned and operated off Åland. Most companies aside from shipping are small, with fewer than ten employees. Farming and fishing are important in combination with the food industry. A few high-profile technology companies contribute to a prosperous economy. Wind power is rapidly developing, aiming at reversing the direction in the cables to the mainland in coming years. In December 2011 wind power accounted for 31.48% of Åland’s total electricity usage.

The main ports are Mariehamn (south), Berghamn (west) and Långnäs on the eastern shore of the Main Island.

Mariehamn was the base for the last large oceanic commercial sailing ships in the world. Their final tasks were bringing Australian wheat to Great Britain, on which Åland shipowner Gustav Erikson kept going until after WW2, 1947 being his last year. The ships latterly made only one round-trip from South Australia to Britain per year, (the grain race), after each marathon voyage going back to Mariehamn to lay up for a few months. The ship Pommern, now a museum in Mariehamn, was one of these last vessels.

The abolition of tax-free sales on ferry boats travelling between destinations within the European Union made Finland demand an exception for the Åland Islands on EU’s VAT rules. The exception allows for maintained tax-free sales on the ferries between Sweden and Finland (provided they stop at Mariehamn or Långnäs) and at the airport, but has also made Åland a different tax-zone, meaning that tariffs must be levied on goods brought to the islands.

Unemployment is well below that of surrounding regions, 1.8% in 2004.

The Finnish State collects taxes, duties and fees also in Åland. In return, the Finnish Government places a sum of money at the disposal of the Åland Parliament. The sum is 0.45 per cent of total Government income, excluding Government loans. In 2010, the amount of taxes paid by Åland Islanders was 0.65 per cent of the total taxes paid in Finland.

According to Eurostat, in 2006 Åland was the 20th wealthiest of the EU’s 268 regions, and the wealthiest in Finland, with a GDP per inhabitant 47 percent above the EU mean.

While the official currency is the euro, the Swedish krona also circulates freely in Åland.

 

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