Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Islands give Finland EU treaty problem

The Aland Islands - an autonomous territory of Finland - have joined Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland as a further thorn in the EU's side over ratification of the discredited Lisbon Treaty.

According to EUobserver, the government of the Islands is demanding certain concessions from Helsinki in return for ratifying the treaty, on which the 30-member strong Aland parliament is expected to vote this Autumn.

Although Finland has been able to ratify the EU treaty without the consent of the Aland parliament, Finland's minister responsible for the islands - the former MEP Astrid Thors - has said that the Alands' refusal would lead to an "unclear situation."

Finland would be put in the awkward situation of not being able to guarantee the implementation of the treaty throughout the whole of its territory.

The Islands' four demands include direct access to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a seat in the European Parliament and participation in the work of the Council of Ministers with some control over the (sham) principle of 'subsidiarity'.

But Helsinki is only offering the possibility of Aland being given some sort of speaking rights within the EU, together with the drawing up of
"Aland document" that would commit the Finnish government to "listen to Aland's point of view."

Vice-President of the Aland parliament, Susanne Eriksson, also told EurActiv that the Islands' answer on ratification "will depend on what happens to the Treaty overall".

The Islands rejected the original EU Constitution because it was politically dead and Ms Eriksson noted that, following the Irish 'no', they could also consider the Lisbon Treaty to be dead already and decide to reject it for that reason.

The clash stems from upset on the Islands caused recently by the European Commission's demand that the sale of 'snuss', a traditional form of chewing tobacco, be banned.

When the Islanders refused on the grounds that health in the Alands is not controlled by Finnish laws but the Islands' own, the Commission took Finland to the ECJ and imposed a €2 million (£1.6m) fine.

The Aland parliament is expected to hold expert hearings on the treaty into early September.

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