Åland Islands Peace Institute, Mariehamn, 2011. isbn 9789525265606, 204 pages (paperback), price: EUR 30. When one mentions the Åland Islands in casual conversation, the reaction is usually muted. Observant Nordic travellers may recall the archipelago as a brief stopover on one of the numerous ferries plying the Stockholm-Helsinki route. Non-Nordics may be hard-pressed to place the islands in Europe. And even the next-door neighbour Swedes sometimes having a hard time recalling whether Åland is Swedish, Finnish or something else entirely. The sole exception to this rule involves international lawyers. No matter where they hail from, the eyes of this rarefied group light up at the mention. Europe’s sole demilitarised, neutralised autonomy with minority rights protections? Based on the famous 1921 League of Nations decision? I read all about them, do they really exist? They do exist, albeit on a demographic scale that belies their political significance. The Åland Islands ‘regime’ was developed in the service of a surprisingly small and rural population of Swedish-speakers inhabiting a scattered Finnish archipelago strategically placed at the centre of the Baltic Sea. Even among Finland’s relatively small Swedish-speaking minority, the Ålanders account for a fraction – some 10 per cent of 265,000
Nordic Journal of International Law – Brill
Published: Nov 1, 2014
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